December 4, 2021 

George Mason’s win over Florida is just the start

The Patriots continue to 'Believe Big'—and it has paid off

FAIRFAX, Va. – George Mason entered its game against Florida on Dec. 1 like it was any other game. The opponent didn’t matter and the Patriots continued to do what they have found a way to do throughout the season: win. 

“We just wanted to come into this game knowing that we weren’t an underdog,” junior Tamia Lawhorne said. “We wanted to play hard; we wanted to come in here and not lose on our home floor. It’s our second home game. We wanted to come in here and do what needed to be done. And we got the job done.”

The team’s win over Florida was its first over an SEC team since Dec. 30, 1996. At the time, no player on the roster was born and head coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis was in her first year as an assistant coach at Monmouth, her alma mater. 

Despite the significance others are putting on the result, the team is treating it like just another game and just another win. 

“What we do as a team, what we’ve done as a coaching staff, is the second you take that shower that next day or that night, you turn the page,” Blair-Lewis said. “This win means nothing if we go drop anything else. We’re here to win games in the A-10 conference. This is a great game for us to win outside of conference, but it’s for this one night and we turn the page and we get ready for the next [team] on the schedule.”

The other coaches in the Atlantic 10 were not expecting many conference wins from the Patriots, picking them last in the preseason poll. 

Mason’s mindset and win over Florida should give the rest of the A-10 something to think about as conference play approaches. The Patriots will continue to move on quickly from wins and losses and turn to the next game and the next opportunity to show what they are capable of. 

This is not the same Mason team that lost every conference game last year. On paper, there is an entirely new coaching staff and five new players.

“We’re different,” said Lawhorne, who was a part of just 12 wins in her first two seasons in green and gold. “We have a great coaching staff. We have great players. We have people who want to work hard every day to get in the gym and do what has to be done to be on the other side of it.” 

Intangibly, the team has also been operating under the mantra “Believe Big” since June. 

After the game, Blair-Lewis said that the mantra was meant for this type of game. 

“We talked about with this program believing big and it’s for moments like this,” she said. “It is because of moments like this that you can believe bigger than what you’ve done.”

After gathering just three wins last season, Mason (6-3) has doubled that total in just under a month. A key part of Mason’s winning ways this season has been senior Amaya Scott, who transferred from Bethune-Cookman, following Blair-Lewis and the rest of the coaching staff. She has scored in double figures in all but one game this season and also leads the team in rebounding. 

While Scott put up a career-high 25 points Wednesday night, she passed the praise on to her teammates. 

“I’m just glad that we have a team that anybody could show up any night,” Scott said. “It’s not just one person showing up every night. Tamia had 19. Good job, Tamia,” she added, gesturing to Lawhorne, who sat on the other side of Blair-Lewis at the press conference. 

Junior Jordan Wakefield (15 points) and sophomore Taylor Jameson (10) also put up double figures in scoring. 

The Patriots struggled to put points on the board last season, averaging just 50.7 points per game with no player averaging more than 9.3 per game. This season, Mason is averaging 63.8 points per game and Scott, Wakefield and Lawhorne are all averaging at least 10 per game. 

The multiple scoring threats will cause opposing defenses trouble; if one player is covered, it will simply give an opportunity to another. In recent years, defenses had one or two players to worry about, but this more versatile team can have a player score whenever her number is called.

Scott knows the win over Florida was not a one-off game, but rather a preview of what is to come for the Patriots. 

She said, “I just want the team to know that we can have this type of win every night [and] keep the same mindset that we’ve prepared for this team for the rest of the season.” 

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been a contributor to The Next since February 2019 and currently covers both the Atlantic 10 and the WNBA.

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