FAIRFAX, Va. – Second-chance opportunities and a slew of turnovers cost the George Mason women's basketball team in its final game before the holiday break.
The Patriots suffered a 66-56 loss to Houston on Friday at EagleBank Arena, snapping a 14-game non-conference home winning streak that dated back to the 2016-17 season.
Junior Jacy Bolton
scored 15 points and senior Jewel Triggs
grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds but it wasn't enough as the Patriots let a six-point halftime lead slip away. The Cougars grabbed 50 rebounds, including 22 on the offensive end for 18 second-chance points.
Mason (6-5) also committed 20 turnovers, which Houston turned into 19 points. The Patriots forced 18 takeaways and held the Cougars to just 33 percent shooting. Houston, however, drained 10 3-pointers while Mason was just 3-of-22 from beyond the arc.
"There were some moments that we were really, really, really, good," Mason head coach Nyla Milleson
said. "Obviously, I think two things ended up being the difference in the game – rebounding we gave up 22 offensive rebounds. I mean they are averaging 77 points a game. So, our initial defense was really good but then we gave up 22 offensive rebounds. We knew with their athleticism they were going to be tough. When you get open looks from the three particularly in the second half like we got, we got to be able to knock a couple more of those down. I'm not sure we are going to face anybody that athletic again, so we can take the lessons we learned.
"I thought for the most part we handled their press very well. They are just so physical and athletic, they just play different than anybody else we play on our schedule."
The Patriots ended the first half on a 13-1 run to take a 33-27 lead into the break. But Houston (5-7) came out and began the third quarter on an 11-0 spurt. Octavia Barnes' trey on the left wing pushed the Cougars in front for good with 7:02 left in the period.
Mason pulled within four early in the fourth quarter after two free throws by Alexsis Grate
. But the Cougars again responded with a flurry. Jasmyne Harris sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around an offensive putback by Alyssa Okoene for a 12-point lead with 7:35 to go.
The Patriots twice cut the deficit to eight in the final five minutes. But a scoring drought over more than three minutes late prevented them from mounting a comeback.
Grate, who left with an injury early in the fourth quarter, and sophomore Nicole Cardañ
o-Hillary each scored 10 points. Julia Blackshell-Fair led Houston with 17 points and Jasmyne Harris added 16 points. The junior guard also added four assists and four steals. She entered the game tied for eighth in the nation with 38 steals.
Mason will now break for Christmas and return to action against Maryland Eastern Shore at 2 p.m. on Dec. 29 at EagleBank Arena.