Fourth Estate/Mitchell Richtmyre

The Patriots led most of the way, but fell short in overtime


Mason women’s basketball fell to Penn State 84-80 in the first round of the Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament (WBIT) on Thursday, Mar. 21. The Patriots (23-7, 14-4 Atlantic 10) had a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter, but the top-seeded Lady Lions (20-12, 9-9 Big Ten) rallied to an overtime victory.

Penn State jumped out to a double-digit lead before Mason ended the first quarter on a 9-0 run, cutting the Lady Lions’ lead to one. Junior Paula Suárez sparked the Patriots’ early comeback with a season-high 24 points on 6-10 shooting from three. Suárez also led the team with 42 minutes and six assists.

The Patriots were looking to build on a strong regular season, with the inaugural WBIT providing them an opportunity to do so. “[In] a new tournament, everyone is excited to play. Everyone wants to make history and be the first one to win it,” Suárez said.

Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year Zahirah Walton also added a career-high 24 points for the Patriots. The sophomore forward ends her rookie campaign averaging 11.3 points per game. With the departure of three seniors, Walton will become an integral part of the Patriots’ core moving forward.

Penn State shot 8-9 from the field in the fourth quarter and outscored Mason 21-12 to come back to tie the game. Ashley Owusu led the Lady Lions with 20 points on 7-16 shooting. Leilani Kapinus notched her fourth double-double of the season for Penn State, adding 13 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. 

The defeat was Mason’s second against a Big Ten opponent this season. The Patriots also lost to Maryland 86-77 on Dec. 3. Despite the two losses, the Patriots led in the second half of both games, gaining national respect in the process.

“I just want to give a shoutout to George Mason,” Penn State Head Coach Carolyn Kieger said. “Heck of a season they’ve had. A lot of credit goes to Vanessa [Blair-Lewis] and what they’re building there.”

Penn State advanced to play Belmont in the second round of the WBIT on Monday night. The Lady Lions defeated Belmont and will host Mississippi State in the quarterfinals on Thursday, Mar. 28.

Mason will now look toward the offseason, as there is expected to be plenty of movement across the collegiate landscape. 617 women’s basketball players have already entered the transfer portal, including Mason’s Taylor Jameson, who averaged 8.9 points per game this season.