Despite the absence of leading scorer senior forward Kelli Prange, women’s basketball played No. 17 South Florida wire-to-wire in an 83–78 loss Saturday afternoon at the Smith Center.
Senior guard Brianna Cummings led the way for GW with a career-high 23 points, while junior guard Kitija Laksa (27 points) and senior forward Maria Jespersen (25 points) combined for 52 points for the Bulls.
The Colonials (3-5) shot 49 percent from the field and a season-high 59 percent from beyond the arc, but it wasn’t enough to topple South Florida. The Bulls (7-1) finished with a 55.6 percent clip and outscored GW 36-20 inside the paint.
“We knew South Florida was going to be really good,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “There are a lot of things that I can certainly be happy about with today’s game.”
With Prange sidelined due to concussion symptoms, Cummings was the focal point on the offensive end. She led the team in scoring on 9-of-17 shooting, getting post touches and attacking the paint on numerous occasions.
On the other side of the floor, the Bulls got whatever they wanted inside, scoring through an assortment of weak side drives and layups. Jespersen in particular dominated the paint – scoring 15 points in the first half and grabbing 13 rebounds on the night.
“I thought our initial 15 seconds of defense was good, and then we lost our focus,” Rizzotti said. “We just didn’t have that person rotating to take a charge or slow down the baseline drive. And that’s an area where we need to get better.”
Despite the loss, Rizzotti said she was pleased with her team’s offensive improvements. The Colonials used a multitude of rotations and got solid contributions from their bench unit, which scored 28 points – the most in six games. GW tallied 22 assists for the game – also its most in six games.
“We have so many people we can utilize to score,” junior point guard Mei-Lyn Bautista said. “When we move the ball we’re a better team.”
Both teams jumped out to a hot start in the first quarter, getting open looks on the perimeter and converting on their early opportunities.
South Florida found space to operate in GW’s zone defense, and the Colonials used an array of three-pointers to shrink the gap.
The Bulls led by seven after the first 10 minutes and GW never regained control. In the final three quarters combined, the Colonials outscored South Florida by two.
After struggling to score within a half-court offense in the second quarter, the Colonials started to move the ball around and look for Cummings in the post. The senior responded, scoring 16 of her 23 points in the second half and getting to the free throw line.
“Sometimes I feel like I need to settle in during the first quarter or the first half,” Cummings said. “But I just wanted to stay aggressive and get myself shots and my teammates shots.”
With less than seven minutes in the game, GW tied the game at 67 apiece when freshman guard Lexus Levy knocked down one of her four threes for the game.
But just two minutes later, Laksa put the game away by burying consecutive shots from behind the arc after being quiet for most of the second half.
The Colonials will look to break their two-game losing streak as they head to Georgia to take on the Mercer Bears Wednesday night at 7 p.m.