It wasn’t always pretty, but despite playing without one of its most valuable players in senior center Caira Washington for the last two weeks, women’s basketball had been able to grit and grind its way to two straight wins in conference play.
But without Washington once again Thursday night in Saint Louis, the Colonials (13-7, 6-2 A-10) went cold against the Billikens (16-5, 6-2 A-10), owners of the top offense in the league.
Behind an explosive attack, the Billikens defeated the Colonials, 67-59, snapping GW’s three-game win streak.
“I think that our execution for most of the game was pretty poor…we just didn’t really click on the offensive end with our decision making,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “That’s frustrating, and at the end of the game we ended up giving up a few buckets when we needed stops. We need to have better mental toughness there.”
The Colonials were led by graduate student forward Lexi Martins, who notched her seventh consecutive double-digit scoring effort with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting to go along with eight rebounds. It was Martins’ first game without a double-double in over a month.
“I think that’s just a matter of chance, sometimes the ball bounces your way and other nights it doesn’t,” Martins said. “I’m just a little bit frustrated about the loss tonight, because I feel like we could have competed a little bit harder in certain stretches.”
Despite Martins’ efficiency from the field, it was the GW’s poor shooting that once again found the road team in need of a comeback in the fourth quarter. After shooting just 20.5 percent from beyond the arc in their last contest, the Colonials converted just 5 of 22 three-point attempts (22.7 percent) against the Billikens.
The Colonials found themselves in an early 7-1 hole, but both teams quickly picked up their scoring, shooting 62.5 percent from the field before the first media timeout.
Lexi Martins started where she left off against Massachusetts as the focal point of the offense without Washington. She answered the bell with 15 first-half points as GW took a 32-29 lead into the break.
The Colonials kept it close until the fourth quarter thanks to a 2-3 zone defense that did an effective job limiting the Saint Louis offense in the paint. GW also held Billikens point guard Jackie Kemph, the A-10’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio, to six assists and six turnovers in the game.
However, a lack of offensive execution down the stretch crippled GW. The team struggled to run plays and missed wide-open looks, missing Washington’s presence on both ends of the floor. Forwards Kelli Prange and Kelsi Mahoney shot just 3-for-18 despite seeing substantial minutes.
“I think we kind of struggled running our offense the whole entire game. Coach [Rizzotti] was writing up the right plays for us but we just struggled executing them,” freshman Kendall Bresee said. “Hopefully with more practice we’ll just continue to execute them better because we have good plays that they can run for us but we just didn’t execute them tonight.”
Meanwhile, Kemph picked up the scoring for the Billikens in the second half, recording 16 second-half points, seven of them at the charity stripe. As a whole, the Billikens shot a sturdy 15-20 from the line to prevent a Colonials comeback. Kemph finished with a game-high 24 points, one away from her season-high.
In a lone bright spot, Bresee – last week’s Co-A-10 Rookie of the Week- put on another excellent display on the offensive side. The rookie point guard from Frederick, Md. recorded her second consecutive game with double-digit rebounds (11) while also chipping in 8 points and 5 assists.
“She’s been aggressive, she’s been tough, and she’s really understanding how to play at the college level, so that’s certainly a bonus for us in the last week to see her playing well,” Rizzotti said. “As a team we need to start playing better, but certainly her individual effort has been a bright spot in this stretch.”
The Colonials will return home to face the Duquesne Dukes on Sunday at the Smith Center. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m.