Rivera’s free throws push Colonials past Troy

Tuesday, December 16

With just two points on the night, the score tied and 11.2 seconds remaining on the clock, sophomore point guard Erica Rivera stepped to the free-throw line as if she were taking any other mundane foul shots.

“No nerves,” she said after the game. “None at all.”

And it showed. Rivera coolly hit both attempts to give the GW women’s basketball team a 63-61 lead they would hold through the final buzzer for a win Tuesday night at Smith Center against Troy.

The game, the Colonials’ (5-3) first since a Dec. 2 home loss to Tennessee, was closer than many expected it to be. GW has traditionally been a strong home team, having reeled off 17 straight wins in Foggy Bottom before the Volunteers snapped their streak. Troy, for their part, entered the game just 3-4 on the season and had recently dropped three in a row.

GW head coach Mike Bozeman wasn’t surprised.

“At shootaround today, I issued a warning to my team,” he said, citing the team’s extended break and a perceived “lack of focus” as the inspiration. “I told them, ‘We’re prime to be beat today.'”

“I thought the effort was not up to par,” he added. “We were lucky to win that game tonight.”

Not helping matters was the absence of seniors Lisa Steele and Antelia Parrish. Parrish, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder on the season, was inactive for violating an unspecified team rule. Bozeman said she would return for Friday’s game against Auburn.

“That was an in-house disciplinary act. She’s in good standing with the team, good standing with the University,” he explained. “I feel like she learned her lesson – and it’s a tough lesson. We obviously needed her out there.”

Parrish sat on the bench with the team in her warm-up gear for the duration of the game.

Steele was inactive due to lingering foot and ankle injuries. Bozeman said she is receiving daily treatments and she hopes to return Friday as well.

Helping pick up the slack was freshman Tara Booker. Booker entered Tuesday tops in the nation in three-point shooting percentage, a skill she displayed early as she connected on a trio of threes in the first half. She would go on to lead GW with a career-high 18 points to go with nine rebounds, tied for most among Colonials.

Booker said making up for Parrish’s missed production was a group effort, but her size helped her fill part of the void.

“I feel like the whole team kind of shouldered Antelia’s loss,” she said. “I’m six-four and that’s part of my strength – my height.”

Sophomore Ivy Abiona narrowly missed a double-double, registering nine points and eight rebounds, and added four blocks. But as with Booker – and the Colonials as a whole, for that matter – her production tailed off in the second half, when she tallied just one basket and two boards.

GW shot 52 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes, but could only manage to hit eight of 29 shots after halftime. Troy was able to keep pace with the Colonials as the game wore on, chipping away at the lead before taking a lead of its own in the final three minutes.

“Cruise control,” Bozeman called it. “They thought the game was going to be easy from that point. In Division I basketball, no one’s going to roll over. I think there’s a certain point in time where they didn’t feel threatened and Troy took advantage of that.”

After a fortnight of inactivity preceded Tuesday’s narrow win, GW will have a quicker turnaround before Friday’s hosting of Auburn. Bozeman said he expects his team to be crisper its next time out.

“There was rust on there – we had to scrape it off with the sledgehammer,” he said of Tuesday’s game.

Friday’s tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.

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