Career-high shooting from George Mason guard overwhelms women’s basketball

Media Credit: Tyara Estrada | Photographer

Freshman center Kayla Mokuwah tries to make her way around a George Mason player in the team's loss Wednesday night.

A George Mason guard’s hot scoring game had the entire Colonials squad outscored by a single player at one point during the team’s loss Wednesday.

The challenge led to women’s basketball extending its losing streak to three games, falling to George Mason in a rematch Wednesday night. The Colonials (8–15, 5–5 A-10) shot 16.7 percent from the three-point line and failed to overcome a strong second quarter from the Patriots (12–10, 4–5 A-10), falling 61–46 on the road.

GW’s offense was fueled by freshman center Kayla Mokwuah, who put up 11 points in 17 minutes of action. Freshman guard Maddie Loder contributed nine points while sophomore forward Neila Luma added eight points and a team-leading eight rebounds.

But GW’s top three scorers did not meet the tally contributed by George Mason sophomore guard Nicole Cardano-Hillary, who led the floor with a career-high 37 points on 60.9 percent shooting. No other Patriot recorded more than seven points, but Cardano-Hillary nearly obtained GW’s entire point total on her own in the matchup.

“It’s funny. One of our goals was that no one other than her has more than 11, so we were prepared to let her make some tough shots but not let her get her teammates going,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “We tried a couple different things on her, we lost her a couple times and then she made some tough shots.”

As a team, the Patriots shot 46.7 percent from the floor on the night and scored 18 points off 14 turnovers by GW, while GW scored seven points on 15 turnovers.

Both teams had players in foul trouble. George Mason sophomore forward Camarie Gatling fouled out with 3:39 left in the fourth quarter. Fifteen seconds later, Colonials senior guard Anna Savino also reached the five-foul limit.

Patriots junior guard Sarah Kaminski opened up scoring with a layup inside, which was quickly answered by a three-pointer from senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista to give GW an early 3–2 lead, one of two times the Colonials pulled ahead in the game.

A three from junior forward Jacy Bolton at the midway point of the quarter put George Mason up 9–5. Chyna Latimer, Mokwuah and Luma were all on the court in an unusual lineup for the Colonials that paid dividends as a Latimer layup put GW on top 13–11 with less than two minutes to play in the first frame.

“We have a lot of lineups out there with inexperienced players and they need to get this game experience and learn from it,” Rizzotti said. “We have to grow up fast at every position.”

Cardano-Hillary responded with five-straight points before the end of the frame, including a punctuating three-pointer with 45 seconds remaining as the Patriots entered the second quarter holding onto a 16–13 lead.

The Patriots began the second frame on a 10–3 run, with all of their points coming courtesy of Cardano-Hillary. A layup from Mokwuah and threes from Loder and senior forward Kelsi Mahoney constituted all of the Colonials’ points in the quarter. Rizzotti again experimented with having two forwards and a center on the court, but George Mason continued to outwork and overpower the Colonials.

The Patriots had twice as many points in the paint as GW with 16 and the Colonials were also outrebounded 20–11 while shooting 32.0 percent from the floor. Cardano-Hillary shot 69.2 percent and had 22 points at halftime, outscoring GW’s entire squad combined as the Colonials trailed 35–21 at the break.

Cardano-Hillary picked up where she left off in the second half, draining a three and scoring the first points of the third quarter, but the Colonials came storming back. GW outrebounded the Patriots 10–7, including four offensive rebounds, in the third frame and forced six turnovers.

A 10–1 GW run got the Colonials within 10 points of tying the game at 41–31 when Bautista sank a midrange jumper with 1:27 on the clock to slash the deficit to single digits 46–39. But GW did not get any closer to the Patriots’ lead before the start of the fourth quarter.

“We just talked about our level of competitiveness as not being high enough, I thought we just weren’t competing for rebounds, we weren’t competing for every possession, we weren’t competing for loose balls,” Rizzotti said. “We have yet to put that full game together and I don’t know if it’s in us, I don’t know if we have the personnel to do that.”

The Colonials continued their momentum into the fourth quarter but self-inflicted wounds in the form of six turnovers and a 36.4 percent field goal percentage stunted any chance of completing a comeback.

Mokwuah scored twice in the first minute of action in the fourth quarter to pull GW closer at 49–41 but the Colonials only scored two more field goals for the remainder of the game while Cardano-Hillary tacked on nine more points to her total.

“I think it’s really important that I take advantage of the time that I am in,” Mokwuah said. “One of my goals is to just minimize my turnovers, minimize my mistakes for the team so I can make a bigger impact, a positive impact.”

GW returns home to host Saint Joseph’s on Sunday. Tipoff is set for noon.

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