Sunday, Nov. 12, William and Mary women’s basketball (0-3) fell to George Mason (3-0) 77-72 at Kaplan Arena in Williamsburg, Va.
“I’m not panicked,” head coach Erin Dickerson Davis said. “I’m not worried. I am super proud of my kids. We are fighting. These are very, very tough opponents.”
This matchup marked the conclusion of the Tribe’s three-game homestand to start the season. After a narrow defeat against Norfolk State Monday, Nov. 6, William and Mary struggled against Virginia Commonwealth Friday, Nov. 10. The Tribe dropped that contest 70-54, with graduate student forward Nylah Young recording 26 points in her second start with the team. Junior guard Bella Nascimento recorded 11 points, but no other player scored more than five points on the day.
Hoping to turn things around, William and Mary welcomed Gerge Mason to the newly renovated Kaplan Arena for a Sunday afternoon matchup.
George Mason held a slight edge throughout much of the first quarter, but never extended its lead to more than four points. Nascimento scored eight of the Tribe’s first 12 points of the game. She started the William and Mary offense with a fastbreak layup, then drained a three-pointer halfway through the quarter to tie the game at eight apiece.
Young led the Tribe offense early in the second quarter, converting on a jump shot to pull within one of George Mason. Two minutes later, freshman guard Cassidy Geddes nailed a shot from deep to put the Tribe in front 22-20 with seven minutes, 42 seconds remaining in the first half. Young grew the Tribe lead to six points with two more free throws and another jump shot.
In the latter half of the second quarter, the George Mason defense clamped down. Senior guard Taylor Jameson scored on consecutive drives for the Patriots before senior guard Sonia Smith converted on a layup to even up the score. Relying on its defense to produce turnovers, George Mason gave itself a plethora of scoring opportunities on the other end of the floor.
A three-pointer from freshman guard Kennedy Harris propelled George Mason to a six point lead heading into halftime. The visitors ended the quarter on an 8-0 run, holding William and Mary scoreless in the final 3:19.
Through 20 minutes, Nascimento and Young finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively, combining for over 73% of the team’s points.
George Mason relied heavily on its bench, with only eight first half points coming from its starting five. The visitors shot an impressive 48.4% from the field in the half.
Coming out of the locker room, William and Mary was visibly frustrated. Both teams were physical up and down the court, preventing any scoring in the first minute and a half of the third quarter.
“I think we just wanted to come out prepared, fight and play hard,” said Nascimento. “No matter what the score was, we just put our heads down and kept attacking.”
Then, sophomore forward Kayla Rolph sent an inside pass to Young, scoring the first points of the second half. After missing a jumper on the subsequent drive, Young made a contested layup on the following possession to pull her team closer to George Mason.
Later in the quarter, Rolph continued her role as facilitator, finding Geddes inside for a layup to tie the game at 38 apiece.
Halfway into the quarter, Nascimento dribbled up the court, but committed an offensive foul, sparking an eruption of cheers from the visitor section. George Mason head coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis yelled at the referees, claiming the penalty should have been more severe. This marked Nascimento’s third foul of the game.
Down two points, junior forward Anahi-Lee Cauley drove into the paint hoping to tie up the game. In addition to converting the contested layup, she drew a foul and made the and-one to put the Tribe ahead 41-40. However, the William and Mary lead was short-lived, with Jameson swishing a three-pointer to retake the lead.
The final minute of the third quarter was a flurry of Tribe offense, beginning with a three-pointer from Nascimento. Then, following a defensive rebound by Young, Nascimento dribbled up the court on the fastbreak. She found Geddes by the basket, who made the layup. On the next Tribe drive, Young created another and-one opportunity to end scoring in the quarter. With 10 minutes remaining, the Tribe were down just 54-53.
After recording a steal on the Patriots’ opening possession of the final quarter, Young drove down court, but committed an offensive foul in the paint. This marked her fourth foul of the contest, prompting Dickerson Davis to pull her from the game.
“She only got a chance to practice for like two weeks before our first game. You know, she is not in condition. She’s playing a lot of minutes. I mean, 26 minutes when you haven’t really practiced. And our team has been doing a lot of running, a lot of practicing since then. You know, I think that with time and as she goes into the game condition, I think that those fouls will be better. A lot of them are just tired fouls, I believe,” Dickerson Davis said.
Despite Young’s absence, the Tribe remained locked-in on offense early in the quarter, with sophomore guard Alexa Mikeska hitting a three-pointer from the left wing to tie up the game.
Throughout the middle portion of the quarter, Harris drained two three-pointers to help the Patriots retake the lead. Several minutes later, Smith grew that lead with a deep ball of her own, propelling George Mason to a nine point lead with under four minutes remaining.
Entering crunch time, Dickerson Davis brought Young back into the game. Her presence made an immediate impact as she continued the Tribe scoring with another layup. On the next possession, Young missed a pair of layups, but thanks to Cauley’s aggressive play on the offensive glass, the Tribe stayed on offense. Nascimento converted on a three-pointer to make the contest just a one possession game with less than two minutes remaining.
George Mason regrew its lead back up to six points, but Mikeska drew a foul to get to the line. She made the first shot but missed the second. On the rebound, senior center Kayla Beckwith pulled down the ball then kicked it out to Geddes who drained the deep ball, making the score 74-72 in favor of the Patriots.
Tight defense from the Tribe on the ensuing George Mason possession gave them a chance on the other end to tie or retake the lead. Dickerson Davis called a timeout to give her team a chance to reset. After the break, Mikeska had a decent look from beyond the arc, but missed, putting George Mason back in control.
Forced to foul, William and Mary sent Jameson back to the line, who made the second of two free throws to put George Mason up by three points with 0:099 remaining. On the final possession, the Tribe needed a stellar play to push the game into overtime. However, George Mason’s defense proved to be too much, and the Patriots escaped with a 76-72 victory.
Young finished the game with 23 points and 10 rebounds to record a double-double. She also committed five fouls, making foul trouble a consistent theme for the team’s star player early in the season.
Nascimento recorded 18 points on a team-leading 19 shot attempts. According to Nascimento, her mindset throughout the game was to stay aggressive.
The loss marks the second wire-to-wire contest for William and Mary in its first three games of the season. According to Dickerson Davis, the key to coming out on top of these close matchups is the team’s defense.
“It’s going to be very hard for us to win games giving up 77 points,” Dickerson Davis said. “And so I think that’s where we have to start. We have UVA coming up and after that we have a week before our following games. And during that week we’re really going to hone in on our defense. We know that we’re a team where our defense sparks our offense. And so that shows that’s where we’re going to start and we’ll just kind of go from there.”
Next up, the Tribe will travel to Charlottesville, Va. to face in-state foe Virginia Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in John Paul Jones Arena.
When asked about her focus ahead of the matchup, Dickerson Davis again emphasized the importance of better defense.
“Defense and rebounding, and defense and then rebounding, and then a little bit more defense in case there wasn’t enough time for that,” she said. “We’re definitely going to work on defense.”