With seven lead changes by halftime alone, each member of the Eagles’ bench sat in the same position: elbows on knees, eyes shifting in the same directions, waiting for the next basket and hoping it was theirs.
Women’s basketball beat George Mason 86-71 Wednesday night in Bender, but the team’s first quarter didn’t foreshadow the final score.
AU (2-0) came alive at the end of the second quarter, specifically when junior guard Katie Marenyi hit three consecutive 3-point shots in the span of two and a half minutes.
Her first of the game came with under three minutes left in the first half, and she made another only 20 seconds later. With under a minute left in the half, she got one more. Her fourth was one minute into the third quarter. By this time, the crowd – and the Eagles’ bench – was warm and loud.
“I just tried to come in with energy, hit a couple shots fairly early, so that gave me the confidence to keep shooting,” Marenyi said following the game.
Sophomore guard Indeya Sanders had a record number of points herself, too. She scored 16 over the course of the game, having played 33 minutes, third behind senior guard Elina Koskimies (38) and Marenyi (36).
Sanders said that she has been focusing on “being aggressive from the jump” in the preseason and initial two games.
As a starter this season, Sanders is working to bring two things specifically to each game: intensity and defense.
“I went into the game and Coach Meg said to me, ‘I need you for your defense and your rebounding,’ so I know my role,” Sanders said.
Against George Mason, of course, Sanders’ offensive performance put her in a different light.
“She is a scorer,” Gebbia said of Sanders. “She didn’t have that opportunity last year [because] she was playing behind a lot of seniors.”
Senior forward Cecily Carl made 20 percent of her 3-point attempts. Her first came seven seconds into the game, and her sole 3-point shot to make it in came more than halfway through the third quarter.
Carl had four personal fouls in the first half. Gebbia said that having Carl in foul trouble affects their rebounding, which was problematic when George Mason had 17 offensive rebounds.
“I thought TaeKenya Cleveland did a great job when she subbed in for Cec in that last, like, three minutes,” Gebbi said. “She played good defense, she blocked out, she did what she was supposed to do.”
Cleveland, a junior forward, contributed to the Eagles late defensive success significantly, though she played only five minutes. She recorded one block.
Gebbia said following the season opener that she would probably play around with the starting lineup, but the starters were the same as last time: Carl, Koskimies, Marenyi, Sanders and senior guard Kaitlyn Lewis.
“My staff was like, “Uh, do you still want to change it?’” Gebbia said with a laugh. “But probably not. It’s going to be a little bit harder when we play teams that play two true bigs. We’ll have to make adjustments. They’ll have to adjust to us and we’ll have to adjust to them.”
Earlier in the week, Gebbia a contract extension to continue in her role as head coach for the next five years, according to a Tuesday press release from the athletic department. This is her sixth season serving as head coach, as well as her three assistant coaches’ sixth seasons.
“Wouldn’t be possible without my incredible coaching staff and players!” Gebbia tweeted following the announcement.
The Eagles play next in Denver on Monday, and they will return to Bender on Nov. 28 to play UMBC at 7 p.m.