Through the opening six weeks of the season, women’s basketball sat dead last in the Atlantic 10.
The Colonials had an opponent field goal percentage of 42.4 percent before their last non-conference matchup of the season at Monmouth Friday night, but they held the Hawks to just 13 first-half points – the fewest GW has allowed all year.
In the second quarter, GW conceded only three points and concluded a 20-0 run that put Monmouth behind by as many as 13 points in the first half.
The Colonials (5-7) extended their advantage in the third quarter with good three-point shooting, but they needed some fourth-quarter energy to close out the Hawks (2-9) 59–45 for their second consecutive win.
“We definitely wanted to end with a couple of wins,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “I feel like no matter how we play or how we shoot, we are always going to have a chance to win the game when we defend like that.”
During all five of GW’s victories so far this season, the Colonials have held their opposition to less than 35 percent shooting. Friday’s performance comes just five days after GW snapped its four-game losing streak by holding American to 44 points on 32.1 percent shooting from the floor.
Monmouth’s top two scorers, sophomore guard Kayla Shaw and senior guard Rhaiah Spooner-Knight, were held to less than half their combined average on 4-for-16 shooting from the floor.
“We put [junior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista] on [Shaw] and said she’s not allowed to have any breathing room and put [senior guard Brianna Cummings] on [Spooner-Knight],” Rizzotti said. “You have got to make other people beat you and they weren’t able to do that.”
The Colonials aggressive effort on their side of the floor extended beyond the Hawks’ top players. GW scored 21 points off of 20 turnovers committed by Monmouth’s offense and the Hawks struggled to move the ball around efficiently.
“Everyone just played tendencies,” Bautista said. “When everyone is focused on what the other team wants to do and we take that away from them, I think that’s always great.”
Despite the high-level defense, the Colonials shot slightly below their average and were outrebounded by six boards on the afternoon. Some of GW’s struggles on the glass can be attributed to senior forward Kelli Prange missing her fifth consecutive game with a concussion, but Monmouth had several second-chance opportunities throughout the contest.
“There are always going to be things that aren’t going our way,” Bautista said. “As long as we respond in another way. If we are not rebounding well, then lets play good defense so they don’t get a shot up.”
Without Prange – who led GW in scoring during four of her seven outings this season – the Colonials relied on a spread out attack and efficient deep shooting to mount a lead. All eight GW players that saw the floor scored at least one basket and five players contributed at least nine points.
Cummings led with a game-high 12 points and Bautista followed with 10 points of her own. The Colonials made eight three-pointers, including two from Bautista, senior guard Camila Tapias and freshman guard Lexus Levy.
Both Levy and freshman forward Neila Luma knocked down consecutive shots during GW’s first-half run that captured the momentum for GW midway through the second quarter.
The Colonials led 23–10 after holding the Hawks to no points for more than 12 minutes of game time. Monmouth tallied only three points and shot 8.3 percent in the entirety of the second frame.
GW started the second half with a three and led by as many as 20 points, but the Hawks began to find their footing. Despite Monmouth’s higher shooting percentage in the third quarter, the Colonials widened their lead with a 4-for-9 showing from behind the arc during the 10-minute stretch.
In the final quarter, the Hawks outscored GW by four points and twice brought the scores back within single digits. But the two sides ended up trading baskets and Monmouth ran out of time.
“We just lost our focus,” Rizzotti said. “We gave up a couple baskets and then we hadn’t really turned it over much all game and all the sudden we were turning the ball over.”
The Colonials return to action Dec. 31 in their second matchup of a three-game road trip. They will take on Fordham (7-4) at 2 p.m.