Women’s basketball outscored La Salle in every quarter of Tuesday night’s opening round game of the Atlantic 10 championship.
The offensive consistency helped the Colonials (16-13, 10-6 A-10) defeat the Explorers (8-22, 3-13 A-10) 69–49 at the Smith Center in their first hosted tournament game in five years.
“I’m very pleased with the overall team win today,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “There haven’t been a lot of times this year — from start to finish — where we played great on both ends of the floor.”
Ball movement and distribution on the offensive end helped GW rack up 19 assists, with junior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista posting nine dimes.
Senior guard Brianna Cummings led GW with 18 points and senior forward Kelli Prange followed with 16 points and added three steals.
The contest was the fourth meeting between the Colonials and Explorers in A-10 Championship history. GW has now won all four matchups.
The tone of the game was set right away. The Explorers looked to pound the ball inside to their frontcourt of sophomore Shalina Miller and senior Ashanti Freeland, controlling the paint and overpowering GW’s bigs.
The Colonials responded by forcing turnovers and getting extra possessions from offensive rebounds, which led to a pair of threes for junior forward Kelsi Mahoney and senior guard Camila Tapias. At the end of the first quarter, GW clung to a one point lead.
But the Colonials fell behind in the second period as the Explorers started the frame on an 8-2 run behind eight consecutive points from junior guard Andreana Miller.
The tide of the game changed when Bautista began to get into the lane at will. By the end of the second frame, she consistently forced the defense to rotate – finding an open teammate with ease. She posted three assists in the second quarter, including a pair of no-look passes to feed Prange for easy opportunities.
“I always like to attack,” Bautista said. “Coach always tells me to keep my eye on the basket and try to get a shot up, but it’s my favorite thing when the defense collapses because I can look to kick it out.”
GW racked up 22 points in the period. The team held the Explorers scoreless for more than six minutes and embarked on a 20-2 run to grab a 36-23 halftime advantage.
In the second half, Cummings began to play at her best, scoring 11 points after the break. She said the team needed to stay within their roles and not to play outside of their games as they hope to make a run in the A-10 Championship.
Although the Explorers cut the lead to single digits early in the third period, they seemed to lose their focus when Andreana Miller was whistled for a technical foul.
The Colonials increased their lead to 20 points in the fourth quarter and coasted to the finish, giving them a victory in their last home game of the year.
“I’m really proud of the seniors in particular,” Rizzotti said. “I know how bummed they were to lose on Senior Night on Saturday, but all three of them showed up in a big way today.”
GW returns to action in Richmond, where they will take on George Mason (28-3, 11-5 A-10) for the third time this year in the quarterfinals Friday at 2 p.m. The Colonials won both of their previous matchups against the Patriots this season.