Loyola Heads Back to the ‘Lab’ Following 61-52 Loss Against George Mason

A 61-52 loss against George Mason University sends women’s basketball back to the “lab” to build and hone their skills, according to head coach Allison Guth.

The Loyola women’s basketball team was welcomed back to Gentile Arena Saturday afternoon for a highly anticipated matchup against the second-ranked team in the Atlantic 10 conference, George Mason University.

The Patriots maintained a 61-52 win over the Ramblers despite a Rambler run that chipped away at the deficit which at times reached 15 points.

Graduate guard Sam Galanopoulos and fourth-year guard Thoranna Kika Hodge-Carr led Loyola in scoring with 13 and 11 points, respectively. Loyola beat the A-10 leader in rebound average per game 36-30 with graduate guard and forward Ali Berg leading the charge with nine collective rebounds. 

The matchup started with an instant drive to the basket by George Mason fourth-year guard Sonia Smith who led the Patriots with 21 points. Once the Ramblers gained possession, the Patriots instantly applied pressure, leading Loyola to their first turnover with a shot clock violation. 

The Ramblers were able to recover quickly with a steal by Galanopoulos and a layup by Hodge-Carr. George Mason didn’t hesitate to respond as third-year guard Ta’Viyanna Habib had a layup and Smith shot a 3-pointer.

A series of uncapitalized steals and turnovers by both teams characterized the next few plays until Galanopoulos and fourth-year forward Sitori Tanin scored their first points of the game. Patriot third-year guard Paula Suárez made a swift 3-pointer which interrupted two Loyola turnovers. 

Loyola continued to struggle to hold onto the ball throughout the game, allowing George Mason to capitalize with 22 points off turnovers.

A quick drive to the basket by graduate guard Alyssa Fisher brought Loyola within four points, but a buzzer-beating shot by Habib increased George Mason’s lead to 14-8 at the end of the quarter.

The second quarter started with a Patriot jumper by Suárez and back-to-back layups by second-year forward Zahirah Walton. While the Patriots continued to thrive offensively the Ramblers struggled with their offensive possessions, gaining three turnovers. 

Galanopoulos showcased her determination by disrupting the Loyola scoring drought with a layup, bringing the Ramblers within 10 points. 

George Mason’s bench — led by fourth-year guard Taylor Jameson — continued to be a threat both in the paint and beyond the arc as she outscored the Loyola bench 14-5. 

The Ramblers couldn’t establish an effective offensive attack during their last possession, allowing the Patriots to extend their lead to 28-13 with another Smith layup closing the half. 

Fisher, Hodge-Carr and Galanopoulos were able to bring Loyola back within single digits, with Hodge-Carr catalyzing their offensive success with a trip to the free-throw line and a 3-pointer. 

As the score reached 28-21, the Patriots recollected with a deep two-pointer by Habib and a layup by Walton. For the Ramblers, Fisher was able to add another steal and drive to the basket. Tanin had another layup helping her earn 10 total points.

George Mason discovered a rhythm from beyond the arc with consecutive shots by Smith and Jameson extending the George Mason lead to 13. 

Loyola continued to search for an offensive run through layups from Emma Nolan, Fisher and Galanopoulos. However, a jump shot and layup by George Mason’s Habib and Walton brought the score to 40-29. 

With under three minutes left on the clock, the Ramblers continued to pass the ball around the court, giving the Patriots another opportunity for a Jameson layup off a turnover.

Fisher opened the final quarter with a trip to the line while Smith shot a deep two to hold the Ramblers within 10 points. Hodge-Carr was able to find the holes in the Patriots’ defense to claim a swift layup.

Graduate forward Sophia Nolan surprised the George Mason offense by knocking the ball before they passed half-court, which led to Galanopoulos having a successful trip to the line, bringing Loyola within six.

Suárez and Jameson took consecutive trips to the line adding three to the scoreboard. Tanin also had free throw opportunities, making both shots and bringing the Ramblers within three possessions of the Patriots. 

Another Fisher steal gave Loyola an opportunity for more offensive control, but it was short-lived as the Patriots regained momentum off unsuccessful free throw attempts from Hodge-Carr. Jameson fired a three and drew a foul for a four-point play, leaving the Ramblers down 12 with five minutes to play. Jameson then knocked down her second three-pointer of the night to help her team extend their lead.

In the final two minutes of the match, Loyola scrambled for a vital shot. The Ramblers found the answer from Berg who connected on her first 3-pointer of the match.

Tanin found herself another layup that precoursed both teams’ trips to the free-throw line, making the score 58-50 in George Mason’s favor. 

The final 50 seconds of the game saw two successful trips to the line for Jameson and the final timeout of the game. Galanopoulos had the final points of the game as she reached the free-throw line. Despite Loyola’s tough defensive efforts throughout the match, George Mason’s consistent offensive success helped lead the Patriots to their 61-52 win over Loyola. 

Head coach Allison Guth said there were numerous things the Ramblers needed to tackle back in the “lab” as they rebuild before their next matchup. She also pointed out the team out-rebounded a successful rebounding team and were defending with integrity, but the team needs to focus on being consistent defensively and build shot confidence by taking better shots.

“I think the focal point for us is going to be ball movement, movement away from the ball and spacing,” Guth said. “ I think those three things are going to be what we work on from an offensive perspective.”

The Ramblers return to the East Coast Thursday, Feb. 8 to face La Salle University. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ at 5:30 p.m.  

Featured image by Aidan Cahill | The Loyola Phoenix

Sabrina Godinho dos Santos

Sabrina Godinho dos Santos