Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Third quarter woes cost Minutewomen again

18-4 run propels George Mason to 71-60 win.

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Third quarter woes cost Minutewomen again

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

By Thomas Haines, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts women’s basketball team gave up an 18-4 run to end the third period on the way to a 71-60 loss to George Mason on Sunday afternoon.

UMass (11-14, 3-9 Atlantic 10) came out of halftime with a two-point lead, but coughed it up midway through the third period on a string of four turnovers in five possessions. Nicole Cardaño-Hillary hit a three-pointer with 5:43 left in the third to give George Mason a 41-39 lead, and the Patriots never looked back.

“The turnovers, the lack of offensive production,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “The combination of those two allowed them to get out and increase their lead.”

One of those turnovers was created by Patriots center Natalie Butler, who dominated the Minutewomen throughout the game. Butler scored finishing with 30 points and 19 rebounds. She came into the game leading the nation in rebounds per game and double-doubles.

“She’s the best player in the league,” Verdi said. “She’s been doing that, there’s a reason why she played for the University of Connecticut. She’s a very good basketball player and this is a very good basketball team.”

Led by Butler’s 30-point day, the Patriots overcame UMass with a strong, athletic starting five. George Mason’s starters accounted for all but five of the Patriots’ points, and those five points came on free throws in the final minutes of the game.

“We knew coming into the game that their starting five was extremely talented,” Verdi said. “They’re solid at all positions. There’s a reason why they’re winning as many games as they are this year.”

Powered by an efficient perimeter game, the Minutewomen started strong, opening up a 15-6 lead late in the first period. UMass hit three of their first four three-point shots, but went just 2-17 from downtown the rest of the way.

The tide began to turn early in the second period when Maggie Mulligan was called for her second foul, which led Verdi to sit her for freshman Alexia Allesch until halftime.

“I just don’t understand where the officials are seeing the fouls,” Verdi said. “So that’s the frustrating part, because obviously [Mulligan] gets those and she’s taken out of the game, and it hurts us.”

While Mulligan was limited to 27 minutes, the UMass offense was led by Bre Hampton-Bey, who finished with 17 points and scored four points at the end of the first half to preserve a narrow lead going into halftime.

Although UMass scored almost 10 points fewer than its season average, the Minutewomen vastly improved from their last game, an ugly 30-point loss to Dayton last Wednesday. Despite the outcome against George Mason, Verdi said that the Minutewomen looked much better on the road Sunday afternoon.

“No question about it. Two different teams,” Verdi said. “We showed up today and we played extremely hard, and I’m proud of our effort. We just have to be able to make open shots. We’re getting the open shots, and we’re executing. We’ve just got to knock them down.”

The loss comes in the middle of a difficult three-game stretch for UMass, with games against Dayton, George Mason and George Washington before a Saturday matchup with Davidson.

“It’s a tough stretch for us, no question about it,” Verdi said. “It’s the second time where we have three games in a week, five games in the last 13 days. It’s the schedule that we were given by the league, and I’m not sure there’s another team in the league that’s had three games in a week as many times as we have this year.”

Now on a two-game losing streak, UMass will look to rebound against George Washington Wednesday.

Thomas Haines can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @thainessports.

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