With 36 points on 14-of-17 shooting and a career high 13 rebounds, women’s basketball senior forward Kelli Prange put on one of the program’s all-time best performances against Rhode Island Wednesday.
Her tallies came after sitting on the bench for a combined 13 minutes and recently returning from a concussion that forced her to miss seven games.
Prange’s scoring load – which was the highest individual scoring total the team has seen in more than 20 years and tied for fifth most in program history – led GW to a 65–52 victory over the Rams (3-18, 1-7 A-10) on an otherwise slow-shooting morning and a below average defensive night from the Colonials (9-10, 4-3 A-10).
“I think these past few games I have been hesitant about getting contact so I’ve been relying on my three and my jump,” Prange said. “I think this is a real big confidence booster for me knowing that I can bang around and be completely fine.”
The victory – which is GW’s first of a three-game homestand – kept the Colonials in seventh place of the Atlantic 10 and cemented Rhode Island’s position in last place.
Aside from Prange and senior guard Brianna Cummings, no Colonial player made more than one basket from the field. As a team, GW shot 34.3 percent and went just 4-for-20 from behind the three-point line.
“Obviously Kelli was pretty great today which was nice because Bri was not and she let her have a bit of an off night,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “We got to be a little more balanced, that’s something we’re working on, is developing our bench and having better offensive balance.”
The matchup was GW’s annual Field Trip Day, where school children from the District, Virginia and Maryland come to the Smith Center with free admission. Cummings said the kids give the Colonials a home-court advantage all game long.
“Field Trip Day is always awesome for us, they can be excruciatingly loud but we love it,” Cummings said. “They definitely bring a lot of energy into the building, and sometimes it’s hard to hard to hear but that’s good experience for us.”
Cummings finished the day with 14 points and three assists in 35 minutes of action.
The Rams capitalized on a loose Colonials defense early in the first quarter, opening the game with a 7-0 run. GW overcame the deficit with five unanswered baskets including a three-pointer from junior forward Kelsi Mahoney.
“I thought URI did a good job today of keeping us off balance, really disruptive in the first half, keeping us off our flow defensively,” Rizzotti said. “I certainly was disappointed that we weren’t able to be better defensively in the first half.”
The Colonials gained momentum after battling back from the early deficit, finishing out on a 17-2 run in the final 6:63 of the first quarter.
Rhode Island battled back in the second quarter, catching the Colonials defense flat-footed on a 7-3 run midway through the quarter.
The Rams outscored the Colonials 18-12 to cut the lead to two at the halfway point of the game.
Entering the second half, Rizzotti said they focused on tightening up the defensive play and preventing Rhode Island from taking advantage of the team’s lack of balanced scoring.
“We talked a lot about that at halftime, saying ‘we gotta make some shots but our lives will be easier if we focus on the defensive end and get out in transition and get some easier shots around the basket,’” Rizzotti said.
The third quarter saw the most complete performance by the Colonials, where they outscored the Rams 22-11. Junior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista opened the quarter with a three-pointer to power a 7-2 run. Bautista led the team with four steals, aiding the Colonials’ strong transition play in the second half.
Cummings said the Colonials were able to overcome their first half struggles and finish out the game strong by playing smart.
“I think we got rattled at some points in the game when they were trapping,” Cummings said. “But being able to finish and just handling the pressure I think is something we’ll just have to continue building as we go through conference.”
The Colonials return to action Saturday against Saint Louis at noon in the Smith Center.