On Thanksgiving Day, women’s basketball struggled to put the ball in the basket in its opening game of the 2017 Paradise Jam against Vanderbilt.
The Colonials forced the Commodores to commit 26 turnovers on the afternoon and outscored them by a combined 15 points over two quarters. But an 18.1 percent lower clip from the field and a 23.7 percent clip from behind the arc thwarted GW’s efforts to extend its winning streak to three games.
Vanderbilt (1-4) defeated GW (2-3) 69–59 at the Smith Center Thursday afternoon to remain undefeated against the Colonials dating back to 1993.
“When we are not making our shots, we are playing a lot of defense in transition, where we’re not strong,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “Vanderbilt’s strength is their athleticism in the full court and when we tried to keep up with them in the full court we really struggled.”
Senior forward Kelli Prange led GW in scoring with 13 points to go with her seven rebounds and two steals. Senior guards Brianna Cummings and Camila Tapias trailed closely behind with 11 points each. Both Cummings and Prange scored a majority of their points in the final quarter and Tapias’s total tied her career high.
Prange said it was important for the veterans to step up in a game that was shaping out to have a disappointing outcome.
“Players like [freshman forward] Neila [Luma], [freshman guard Lexus Levy] and [freshman forward] Chyna [Latimer] might not have the experience coming into a game that might not go their way,” Prange said. “You see them getting frazzled when us upperclassmen take them aside and be like ‘look, they’re not calling anything for you but just keep on pounding.’”
During the woeful shooting performance, the Colonials were outmatched on the boards – getting outrebounded 44-27 on the game. They have had fewer rebounds than their opponent in all five 2017-18 matchups thus far.
The Commodores shot 53.3 percent from the three-point range, including three made shots from distance in both the second and third quarter. Coming off the bench, sophomore forward Erin Whalen gave Vanderbilt a boost from the perimeter – leading the team with four three-pointers on six attempts.
“We were very clear that she only could shoot threes,” Rizzotti said. “It shouldn’t have been difficult, but we certainly lost our focus on her and she did a nice job.”
GW trailed by as many as 23 points near the end of the third quarter, but the team made a run in the final frame and started inching back into the game despite the clock winding down.
“I think we definitely executed well in that last stretch of the fourth quarter,” Cummings said. “We just have to be more active and really just be tougher.”
The Commodores won the tip and began the game with a layup on their first possession. Shortly after, Tapias knocked down a three-pointer to give GW its first lead and begin a back-and-forth first quarter.
A shot from behind the arc from Levy gave GW a 12–7 advantage – its largest lead of the game – less than seven minutes into the action.
The Commodores responded with three two-point baskets that brought the score within one. But a second three-pointer from Levy in the final minute of the first quarter extended GW’s advantage to 17–13 heading into the first break.
Vanderbilt came out pushing in the second quarter. The Commodores scored the first three buckets of the frame, including a three-pointer from Whalen that gave them a 20–17 lead.
Tapias hit her second three to tie the game, but Vanderbilt stayed one step ahead and followed with two of its own baskets. The Colonials trailed 25–24 at the final media timeout of the first half.
In the remaining four minutes of the half, the Commodores took control and did not allow GW to score. Vanderbilt ended a nearly four-minute scoring drought with a three from Whalen and went on a 9-0 run – giving the Commodores a 34–24 lead at the midway point.
Although Cummings started the second half with a GW basket, Vanderbilt was quick to show its run was not over. A three-pointer and two layups brought the Commodores’ lead to 14, less than two minutes into the frame.
Vanderbilt went on a 14-2 run and looked to be making shots with ease throughout the majority of the third frame. Altogether, GW entered into the fourth quarter trailing by 21 points after getting outscored by double-digits for the second consecutive quarter.
“I thought we got a little bit impatient in the third quarter,” Rizzotti said. “We are a young, somewhat inexperienced team, so our body language really changed when things weren’t going our way.”
In the last frame, the Colonials found their footing and fought back into the game. Prange and Cummings started knocking down their shots and GW held Vanderbilt to just two field goals over the 10-minute stretch.
“We are hosting a tournament. We don’t want to be the team that’s 0-3,” Rizzotti said. “We have a lot to prove and it’s not just about this weekend, it’s about our season in general. We have to find our identity and grow up as a team.”
The Colonials return to action Friday when they take on their former head coach Jonathan Tsipis and his Wisconsin Badgers at 1 p.m.