After falling to Saint Louis in a last-second overtime loss at home last month, women’s basketball traveled to Missouri Saturday afternoon, looking to split the season series.
The Colonials (14-12, 9-5 A-10) benefitted from active defense and solid forward play while defeating the Billikens (14-13, 8-6 A-10) 71–58 for GW’s fifth win in six games.
“Before the game, I was like, ‘look, we owe them one’,” senior guard Brianna Cummings said. “We all wanted this one really bad.”
The Colonials finished the night shooting 43.4 percent from the field on a 23-of-53 clip and owned a 34-33 advantage on the glass.
The win moves GW past Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 standings and into a tie for fifth place with Saint Joseph’s – who the Colonials will face off against Tuesday night.
“Every game is crunch time for us heading into the A-10 tournament,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “We want to continue to progress and play well and getting another win on the road would certainly make us feel good down the stretch.”
A tight defense was crucial to the win for the Colonials, who began the game by immediately trapping Saint Louis in a full court press. The early pressure had a noticeable effect on the Billikens, who turned the ball over five times in the first quarter alone, giving GW more possessions and allowing the team to jump out to an early lead.
Rizzotti said she decided to go with the press early on in hopes of keeping the Billikens from getting into a rhythm.
“We wanted to not allow them to get comfortable starting their offense the way they wanted to start it,” Rizzotti said.
However, back-to-back Saint Louis three-pointers countered GW’s early points and swung the momentum in their favor. The Billikens went into the second quarter leading by five.
Cummings said that focusing on the long-term game plan helped her and the team stay calm when Saint Louis began to take charge.
Aggressive play on both ends of the floor allowed GW to open the second quarter scoring 13 uncontested points and taking the lead. For the rest of the night, the home squad never regained the lead.
Free throws were crucial to maintaining the lead in the second half for the Colonials, who went 17-for-19 from the charity stripe, compared to the Billikens’ 5-for-8.
“It’s always good when you shoot a lot of free throws because it means two things: that you were aggressive and attacking the basket and hopefully that you’re up at the end of the game and they need to foul intentionally,” Rizzotti said. “I’m definitely happy with the amount of times we got to the line.”
GW’s post defense was also crucial in the win. Forwards freshman Neila Luma and senior Kelli Prange shut down the Billikens’ inside game and forced them to turn to their outside shooting game, which was held to 33.3 percent on the afternoon.
Luma was an especially strong presence for GW on the boards, grabbing a team-high 14 of the squad’s 34 rebounds and adding 14 points.
“This is what I strive for every game,” Luma said. “Just being as aggressive as I can both offensively and defensively.”
Rizzotti said the past two games have helped Luma settle into her role as a young player amid a veteran group of frontcourt players.
“It’s hard as a freshman when you have a bunch of upperclassmen around you to want to be aggressive and feel like you’re not stepping on toes,” Rizzotti said. “But I feel like she really understands now what she needs to do to play her role well.”
The Colonials finished the game with four players scoring in double figures, led by junior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista and Cummings, who dropped 15 and 16 points, respectively.
Prange, who scored her 1,000th point last game, tallied her 600th career rebound against the Billikens. Luma said the 6-foot-5 senior has been a role model for her in her first season with the team.
“She’s a very good post player, and I want to develop to be like her,” Luma said. “Playing with her this year is really special, and I feel like she’s helping me grow more.”
Next, the Colonials will face off against Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia Tuesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm.