Women’s basketball is beginning to gel after dropping its first game of the year against Georgetown.
While the team is still working out the kinks that come with playing under a new head coach, the Colonials have shown in their last few games why they are reigning back-to-back Atlantic 10 tournament champions.
After more than a week of play and three straight wins, here are a few things to look for as the season progresses:
1. Rizzotti will fully utilize her bench
A team is only as good as its weakest link, but the Colonials’ bench is strong. Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti has said any one of her bench players could be a starter on another team, and they’ve certainly played that way.
Freshman guard Kendall Bresee has packed in 12 points and 11 rebounds in her 36 minutes off the bench, appearing in all four games so far. Sophomore guard Mei-Lyn Bautista has garnered 16 points in her 89 minutes off the bench, and senior guard Shannon Cranshaw has clocked in 67 minutes and six assists for the Colonials.
In total, GW’s bench has outscored its opponents’ benches a combined 85–53 and seen 340 minutes of action. Ten players have also appeared in all four games this season. With such a reliable set of reserves, expect Rizzotti to give her starters some rest and spread out minutes on the court, going eight or nine deep all season.
2. Colonials need to take care of the ball
If the bench is the Colonials’ strong suit, turnovers are the chink in their armor. The Colonials have committed a total of 72 so far this season and have paid for it, with opponents averaging 15.5 points per game off turnovers.
Even in a 77–46 victory over Coppin State last Wednesday, the Eagles scored 19 points off Colonials’ mistakes. Giveaways also played a major factor in GW’s loss against Georgetown, where they committed a season-high 21 turnovers.
And the hardest part of the GW schedule is yet to come. Syracuse, who the Colonials square off against on Friday, scored 39 points off turnovers against Siena and 38 points off turnovers against Rhode Island. If GW wants to continue its forward momentum this season, it needs to control the ball and cut down on mistakes.
3. Washington and Martins command the glass
Martins and senior forward Caira Washington have been dynamic under the basket, totaling a combined 60 boards.
With Rizzotti hoping to make Washington a focal point of the offense, Martins has put up a team-best 25 defensive rebounds and – along with Washington – leads GW with an average of 7.5 boards a game. Washington’s team-high 15 offensive rebounds have helped the Colonials produce 51 second-chance points so far.
With the team averaging more than 30 points in the paint per game, the Colonials will continue to rely on Washington and Martins’ veteran experience under the basket.
4. Three-point shooting improves
With the majority of the team’s points in its first three games coming from inside, GW’s offense looked lopsided.
The Colonials shot an average of 29 percent beyond the arc entering Sunday’s contest at Villanova, meaning the guards will have to start sinking their shots if they want to stay competitive.
However, GW showed substantial improvement against the Wildcats – going a season-best 8-for-14 (57.1 percent). Junior guard Camila Tapias paced the Colonials from distance, knocking down 3 of 4 shots from three-point range. Junior forward Kelli Prange also continued her good shooting year, going 2-for-2 from behind the arc.
Prange, who is shooting 46 percent from three, helps spread the court with her shooting ability. But with her positioned in the interior, her outside shots won’t come often enough for the Colonials to rely upon.
If this momentum continues from Tapias, Prange and the rest of the team, the Colonials could continue to balance out the offense in the upcoming games.