Women’s basketball captures first win of the season in home-opener

Media Credit: Arielle Bader | Staff Photographer

Senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista attempts to make her way around a Princeton player during Sunday's home game. The Colonials beat the Tigers 64–49.

Women’s basketball put together a complete performance in GW’s home-opening win Sunday over Princeton.

The Colonials (1-1) held the Tigers (1-1) to 29.0 percent shooting on the night while going 44.2 percent from the field to grab their first win of the season 64–49. GW stifled Princeton’s drives and post-ups, forcing its opponent to attempt 38 three-pointers, but the Tigers failed to take advantage and hit only seven (18.4 percent).

“When they’re able to get a lot of layups, as good of shooters as they are, that’s when they score 80–90 points,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “We felt like the zone, playing in the gaps and potentially inviting a few three pointers, was the key to beating them.”

Before tip off, the Colonials revealed their 2017-18 Atlantic 10 Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance banners and received their championship rings.

Senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista pitched in a game-high 15 points and three assists while swiping five steals.

Another large part of GW’s success was redshirt junior forward Sarah Overcash, who looked much more comfortable than her first time on the Smith Center floor last week, when she came away without a point on the board. In Sunday’s outing, Overcash barely missed a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds.

“I think it was just getting the nerves out, since it was my first game back in a year,” Overcash said. “And then obviously, it was about my teammates having my back and me having that confidence.”

With junior center Bella Alaire sitting out for Princeton with a broken arm, the Colonials attacked the Tigers aggressively in the paint. In the process, the Colonials attempted 23 free throws while holding Princeton to just four of their own.

Freshman center Kayla Mokwuah contributed eight points and two rebounds on the interior.

“I knew they would be lacking some experience in the post position and some size, so between Sarah and Kayla at that center spot, for them to be able to score 17 points and have 12 rebounds between the two of them, I thought was really big,” Rizzotti said.

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart had her team running a fast-paced offense early on, but the game plan seemed to backfire after GW’s zone defense overwhelmed Princeton. The Tigers committed three traveling violations and forced shots early in the shot clock, leading to transition opportunities for the Colonials.

GW raced to an early 16–9 lead behind its pestering defense, which converted 10 Princeton turnovers into 12 points in the opening frame.

All eight Colonials who saw action in the first half scored, contributing to a balanced offensive attack that pushed the ball in the paint whenever it could. GW attempted just 11 three-point shots on the night.

“With the post players, a lot of the time they’re open, you just got to find that lane,” Bautista said. “We make sure we get the ball to our bigs and that’s what we’re doing most of the time.”

The Colonials neutralized Princeton senior guard Gabrielle Rush – who notched 25 points in just 22 minutes during Princeton’s home opener last week – holding her to five points on 2-for-14 shooting.

Transition offense, primarily points off of turnovers, helped GW take a 14 point lead in the second quarter, but turnovers would become an issue for the home team as well. Sloppy passing from GW’s inexperienced guards allowed Princeton to stay within striking distance at the half, trailing by only nine despite committing 14 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

GW came storming out of the gates after halftime, seizing a 22-point lead and outscoring Princeton 13–3 before the five-minute media timeout. Sophomore guard Lexus Levy led the charge in the period, scoring eight of her 13 points in the third quarter.

But unforced turnovers plagued the Colonials for the remainder of the quarter. Princeton freshman guard McKenna Haire knocked down a three pointer off a turnover with a minute left in the third quarter to narrow the deficit to just 13 points entering the final period of play.

Long offensive rebounds off missed three pointers provided much of Princeton’s offense on the afternoon, but the Colonials flipped the script in the fourth quarter. GW held a 16-9 advantage on the glass in the final frame and was able to quiet the Tigers’ run by slowing the pace of the game and getting to the free-throw line. The home team shot 10-for-13 from the charity stripe in the 20-point final quarter.

“It was good to see that we limited our outside shots, we were a little more aggressive attacking, and we got to the free throw line,” Rizzotti said. “When we needed to get rebounds, we found a way.”

The Colonials return to action Wednesday when they host No. 9 Maryland at 7 p.m.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.