The GW women’s basketball team knew it would have its hands full Wednesday night, with conference opponent No. 7/7 Xavier (AP, ESPN/USA Today) coming to the Smith Center. Coming into the game, the Atlantic 10 defending champions had won nine of their last 10 and owned a perfect 6-0 record in conference play, not to mention a top-10 national ranking.
After a few minutes of tight play, the Musketeers showed exactly why they have such an impressive resumé, taking control of the game with a dominant stretch of play and holding on to beat the Colonials 72-56.
GW (5-16, 2-6 A-10) opened the game in a 3-2 defensive zone and hung with Xavier through the first six-plus minutes, trailing by only three. The tides turned rather quickly, however, as the Musketeers went on a 23-3 run over the next six minutes while their full-court press seemed to overwhelm the young Colonials.
“I think the first four minutes, we were playing Xavier, and the next couple minutes after that we started playing the [Washington] Mystics,” head coach Mike Bozeman said, comparing the Musketeers to a WNBA team.
“We’ve got a lot of speed and athleticism on our team and so we’re trying to press a little bit more,” Xavier head coach Kevin McGuff said. “GW plays a little bit slower than we do so we were trying to speed the tempo.”
Xavier took a 48-24 lead into halftime after shooting 64.5 percent from the field in the first half. Exactly half of the Musketeers’ scoring came in the paint; the other 24 came from three-pointers as they made eight of 15 in the half, four by Tyeasha Moss and three by Katie Rutan.
“They have one that you think is their best shooter coming off the bench in Rutan, and then Moss goes and gets you four three-pointers in the first half,” Bozeman said. “Right when you think you have them kind of figured out, someone else steps up. That’s the sign of a good team.”
The Musketeers’ front-court duo of Ta’Shia Phillips and Amber Harris also fueled their victory. Phillips finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds and Harris led Xavier with 18 points.
Despite trailing by as many as 25 in the first half, the Colonials seemed to fight for the duration of the game. They outscored Xavier 32-24 in the second half, diving for loose balls and continuing to play hard for the full 40 minutes.
Sophomore Tiana Myers scored a team-high 18 points and had only two turnovers in 36 minutes as she continues her transition to point guard. Freshman Megan Nipe had one of the best games of her young career, scoring nine points and grabbing nine rebounds, and sophomore Sara Mostafa displayed her mid-range shooting ability en route to 12 points.
Bozeman said he was encouraged by his team’s efforts despite the result.
“I know the future of George Washington basketball is not what everybody is seeing right now,” he said. “It’s bright. I can always look back and look at this film and just watch those kind of efforts.”
GW will continue its A-10 schedule Saturday at Duquesne. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.