In the final matchup of the 2017 Paradise Jam, women’s basketball never secured a lead over Syracuse.
Instead, the Orange (6-0) opened the game on a 15-0 run in the first quarter and never looked back, defeating GW (3-4) 74–62 to claim the tournament title Saturday afternoon at the Smith Center.
“All these games put us in a position as a coaching staff and as a team to figure out how we are going to thrive,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “It is not there for 40 minutes yet, but it is getting there and we are going to keep taking it one game at a time.”
Senior guard Brianna Cummings led the team Saturday with a double-double, picking up 16 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman forward Neila Luma grabbed a team-high 11 boards in the game.
GW shot at a 35.6 percent clip from the field and went 7-for-23 from beyond the arc, compared to Syracuse, who had 44.1 percent shooting from the field and picked up 11 threes in the game.
Despite the double-digit loss, the Colonials outscored the Orange 20-8 in the final frame and out rebounded them by three boards in the game.
“We looked a lot better and more comfortable on the offensive end in the second half,” Rizzotti said.
GW couldn’t hold back a hot Syracuse offense in the first quarter. The Colonials missed all five of their first shots in the time it took for the Orange to sink six of their own.
“I think with every game it starts with our defense, and that was lacking,” Cummings said. “So once we locked in to our defense, we were able to get some more stops and rebounds.”
The Colonials found the scoreboard after senior forward Kelli Prange made a contested layup and got a foul for GW’s first three points of the game with six minutes left in the quarter.
At the end of the first frame, the Colonials were trailing 31-18 and shooting 6-19 from the field.
GW picked up momentum to open the second, after sophomore forward Kendall Bresee battled through Syracuse’s defense under the rim to pick up two points for GW and close the gap to 11 points.
A three from junior guard Kelsi Mahoney saw the Colonials bring the score to 31-23. But missed shots and a series of turnovers allowed the Orange to go on a 15-2 run through the large part of the second quarter.
Heading into the break, Cummings was leading the team with seven points and six rebounds. The Colonials were 11-for-33 from the field and only 3-for-12 from beyond the arc. Not a single Colonial was in double-digit scoring heading into the locker room.
Syracuse was 20-for-36 from the field and 10-for-17 from beyond the arc in the first half and was led by redshirt junior Isis Young with 12 points.
In the third quarter, Syracuse went 3-for-10 from the field, and 0-for-4 from beyond the arc, but picked up seven points at the charity stripe.
A free throw made by the Orange pushed the lead to 20 with just less than eight minutes left in the frame.
Freshman guard Chyna Latimer contributed four out of GW’s 10 points in the third frame, and four rebounds from Luma helped keep the game competitive before Syracuse went on a 7-0 run to stretch the lead to 66-42.
The fourth quarter was the Colonials’ strongest quarter of the night. With 1:51 left in the game, Cummings had a wide-open drive to the hoop to get the Colonials within 10 points of the lead.
“Our defense is really what drives us and it drove us in the fourth quarter both of the past two losses,” Mahoney said. “That is something that we need to focus in on and making sure that it is coming right from the start.”
Mahoney picked up eight points off the bench in the fourth quarter, including two three-point shots. GW’s bench picked up 22 points in the game.
“Coach always says, basketball is a game about runs and nobody has the bench that we do,” Mahoney said. “So we just come in and battle.”
The Colonials return to action against USF next Saturday at the Smith Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.