Preview: Women’s basketball at Saint Louis

What: Women’s basketball (13-6, 6-1 A-10) at Saint Louis (15-5, 5-2 A-10)

When: Thursday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m.

Where: Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis

The Colonials escaped Amherst with a scrappy double-overtime victory over Massachusetts Saturday to earn their sixth win in seven games.

After a five-day break, women’s basketball once again hits the road to face the Atlantic 10 preseason favorite Saint Louis Billikens – owners of the best overall record in the conference.

The case for the Colonials:

Since a close loss to Dayton, one of the top teams in the A-10, the Colonials have recorded a comeback victory in each of their last three games. Their resiliency and experience has allowed them to dominate teams in the second half, despite not leading at halftime in any of those wins.

Against a good team like Saint Louis, which is ranked eighth in espnW’s mid-major poll, the Colonials cannot afford to fall behind early. If Caira Washington is healthy, it will give GW a major boost defensively, where they have struggled without her shot-blocking presence in the paint.

Two newcomers, graduate student forward Lexi Martins and freshman guard Kendall Bresee, played a big role in a win over UMass, and both should again see an increase in minutes against the Billikens.

Martins notched her sixth-consecutive double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds, providing the Colonials with valuable depth in the frontcourt. Bresee was named the A-10 Co-Rookie of the Week thanks to a solid 9 point, 10 rebound and 3 assist effort against the Minutewomen.

The Colonials will have to focus on limiting the A-10 Preseason First-Team selection Jackie Kemph (11.8 PPG, 8.2 APG in A-10 play). Only Texas A&M’s Curtyce Knox both averages more assists and has a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Kemph in all of Division I women’s basketball.

In a surprising blowout loss to Duquesne, a sub-.500 team, Kemph had only four points and five assists and turned the ball over five times. The Colonials should look to replicate Duquense’s successful effort in limiting Kemph to contain the Saint Louis offense. Guards Mei-Lyn Bautista and Hannah Schaible should have their hands full on Thursday night against arguably the top guard in the A-10.

The case for the Billikens:

Last Saturday, Saint Louis snapped a mini two-game skid with a victory over a struggling Rhode Island squad that was winless in conference play and had lost 11 games in a row. They will face a much tougher test in the Colonials, who have started 6-1 in conference play under first-year head coach Jennifer Rizzotti.

The Billikens are led by the duo of Kemph and senior center Sadie Stipanovich, who are averaging 13.9 and 13.7 points per game, respectively. Kemph, who leads the conference in assists per game (8.6), and Stipanovich, who is second in field goal percentage (.541), form a dangerous inside-outside combination on an offense which averages a league-leading 74.0 points per game.

Saint Louis also shoots the ball well, making a conference-best 44.2 percent of their shots from the field while holding opposing teams to 36.1 percent. The Billikens are able to take high-percentage shots because they move the ball well without turning the ball over – they average a conference-low in turnovers (13.1) and a conference-high in assists (18.5).

Like the Colonials, the Billikens are a deep team with a solid bench that can maintain leads and keep the starters well-rested for the fourth quarter. They also rebound the ball well, with the second-best rebounding margin (+6.5), behind only the Colonials (+7.9).

The bottom line

Both teams should be well-rested and ready to go, but Saint Louis will have their fans behind them at home, where they are 7-2 this season. Conversely, the Colonials are 4-4 on the road, where they have struggled to put teams away. Home-court advantage could be the deciding factor for a Saint Louis win on Thursday night, as the a raucous crowd will be ready for a matchup between two of the top four teams in the Atlantic 10.

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