Preview: Women’s basketball vs. No. 9 Maryland

Media Credit: Arielle Bader | Staff Photographer

Senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista goes up to make a basket during last Sunday's home game against Princeton.

What: Women’s basketball vs. No. 9 Maryland
Where: Smith Center, Washington, D.C.
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

No. 9 Maryland will come to town to face the Colonials in a highly-anticipated matchup that pits GW against one of the top teams in the nation.

The last time the two teams met at the Smith Center, Maryland escaped with a 75–65 victory in 2014. Last season, the Terrapins – then the No. 15 team in the nation – hosted the Colonials and soundly defeated GW 80–54. Sophomore forward Chyna Latimer managed 10 points in the game, the most of any player returning to the court Wednesday.

Case for the Colonials:

GW has seen a mixed start to the 2018-19 season. The team showed a lack of firepower in a 50–37 loss to James Madison, but turned around to defeat Princeton 64–49.

The Colonials may have an inconsistent attack, but stifling defense is becoming the cornerstone of the team’s campaign. Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti’s unit has held two potent opponents to 50 points or less, and continuing that trend will be a tough task against Maryland. But the Colonials should stay within striking distance if they are able to execute the strategy they’ve employed thus far.

A potential weakness for GW to exploit is Maryland’s perimeter defense. The Terrapins allowed Dayton just 18 points in the paint in their win over the Flyers Sunday. But Maryland went 43.3 percent from beyond the arc on 13-for-30 shooting.

The Colonials will need to execute from beyond the arc against a Maryland defense that shuts out opponents from inside. Sophomore guard Lexus Levy and sharpshooting senior forward Kelsi Mahoney – who combine for 17 of GW’s 29 attempted threes – can punish their opponents from long range to overcome the Terrapins’ stronghold in the paint.

Perimeter defense has been a strength for the Colonials this season, and they’ll need to stay strong to ward off Maryland. GW limited James Madison to 26.3 percent shooting from three-point range and improved on that against Princeton, which converted just seven of its 38 attempts.

Senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista leads the team in scoring this season with 26 points in two matchups. But the Colonials will need other players to step up against Maryland to match the well-balanced Terrapin offense.

Case for the Terrapins:

The No. 9 squad brings a high-octane offense to the Smith Center. Maryland has five players averaging double-digit scoring this season, which will provide a tough test for GW’s defense. Against Coppin State Friday, all 10 players who saw time on the court scored for Maryland, with freshman guard Taylor Mikesell leading the way with 18 points. Junior guard Kaila Charles – a First Team All Big Ten selection last season – exploded for 22 points and six rebounds to propel her team to victory against Dayton Sunday.

The well-rounded offense poses the biggest threat in the paint, where in two games, the Terrapins averaged 42 points while holding opponents to 18.

Under the glass, freshman forward Shakira Austin will be a force to be reckoned with for the Colonials. Austin leads the Terrapins with 27 rebounds this year and at 6 feet 5 inches, she stands at least 4 inches above GW’s tallest starters.

If the Colonials hope to upset the visitors – who have seen the second round of the NCAA tournament for eight years straight – they will need to be defensively sharp right from the start. Maryland has averaged 29.5 points in the first quarter alone so far this season, while GW’s first two opponents have averaged 12.5 points in the first frame. To keep from getting knocked on its heels, GW will be forced to soldier up its defense from the first minutes.

The Bottom Line:

The Colonials face a tough test against a powerhouse program, but should be able to rely on their defensive play to lessen the deficit. While GW’s offense has not been firing on all cylinders, the pieces are there for the Colonials to run with the Terrapins. If Maryland gets out to a big lead early in the game, as it has done to its previous opponents, it may be a long night for the Colonials. Wednesday’s matchup will likely be a question of whether GW’s defense can contain Maryland long enough for the Colonials’ offense to come alive and keep pace to cause an upset.

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