Women’s basketball struggles to hold strong offense in opening games

Media Credit: Eric Lee | Hatchet Photographer

Sophomore forward Neila Luma looks for a shot during a women's basketball game against Maryland Wednesday.

Women’s basketball is going through growing pains on offense three games into GW’s season.

In their opening loss to James Madison Thursday, the Colonials (1–2) were held to 23.5 percent shooting on the floor against a team that allowed opponents to shoot 37 percent from the field last season. GW came out hot against Princeton Sunday, going 23-for-52 on the night and blowing out a team that routed them last season by 20 points.

But the Colonials struggled against No. 9 Maryland, losing 69–30 and shooting an abysmal 17.5 percent from the field Wednesday. The result was GW’s lowest point total since a 51–25 fall to Howard on Jan. 27, 1976.

Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said after the game against James Madison that her young team lacks “consistent scoring options” and is still getting comfortable in their roles on the court. The roster has three seniors, including one walk-on, while the rest is filled by freshmen and sophomores.

“I wanted to throw them in the fire and let them sink or swim – that’s how you get better,” Rizzotti said after the loss to James Madison. “The preparation is going to be good for them in the long run.”

So far this season, no player is averaging double-digit scoring and the majority of GW’s offensive production is spread out among the team. Six Colonials scored against James Madison, while eight found the scoreboard against Princeton.

Dean Whitelaw | Hatchet Photographer

Freshman center Kayla Mokwuah goes up for a layup during a women’s basketball game against Maryland Wednesday.

When the Colonials go deeper on the bench, they find success. The biggest differentiator between the team’s performance against Princeton and James Madison was GW’s bench game. The squad only had eight points coming off the bench against the Dukes but racked up 23 in their win against Princeton.

“Going forward that’s something we’re going to be fixing and working toward is making sure we get our posts the ball and they’re comfortable in there and making sure we’re getting the easier shot,” senior forward Kelsi Mahoney said after the game against Maryland. “Threes are easy for some and not so for others but making sure we get the easy shot as a team.”

After GW’s game against Maryland, Rizzotti said she went deep on her bench because her starters were not performing at the level she needed them to against a top-10 team in the nation. The Colonials picked up 12 points off the bench compared to the 18 points starting forwards Mahoney and sophomore Neila Luma picked up together.

When the Colonials have had success offensively, it has been from executing short and mid-range shots. The Colonials picked up 46 points in the paint in their first two games before notching just four in their loss to Maryland.

While their paint play might be strong, the Colonials’ offense is lopsided. The biggest area of growth for the Colonials so far has been their three-point performance. The team has only made 12 three-point shots through three games compared to 18 made-threes this time last season.

After the Princeton game, where the Colonials went 4-for-11 from beyond the arc, senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista said the team is focused on getting the ball to its post players as the team’s first option on the offense.

“A lot of the time coach tells us to utilize our players to the best of their abilities and putting them in spots that they’ll be the most successful,” Bautista said.

With the Colonials sporadic in the scoring department, GW’s defense has been the team’s anchor. The Colonials limited James Madison and Princeton to 50 and 49 points, respectively. The Colonials’ defense held Princeton to 29.0 percent field goal completion. The Tigers attempted a staggering 38 three-point field goals, but converted just 18.4 percent of those attempts.

Heading into Wednesday’s match, the Terrapins averaged 87.5 points per game but the Colonials held them to almost 20 points fewer than their average.

Rizzotti has drawn comparisons between this season’s squad and last year’s lineup in terms of needing time to mature and grow as the season progresses. The Colonials were adjusting to playing without three of their top scorers from the 2016-17 season.

“These guys are young so it’ll take a little bit of time to sink in,” Rizzotti said. “Similar to last year until things start to feel a lot easier.”

GW returns to action Sunday at 1 p.m. when the Colonials take on Iona on the road.

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