Women’s basketball falls to Georgia Tech on first day of Cancun Challenge

Media Credit: File photo by Dean Whitelaw | Hatchet Photographer

Senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista looks towards the basket during a game against Maryland earlier this month.

Women’s basketball fell victim to offensive inconsistencies once again in GW’s third consecutive loss of the season Thursday.

The Colonials (1–4) turned the ball over a season-high 23 times in their 70–55 loss to Georgia Tech (4–1) for GW’s first game of the Cancun Challenge. The team’s Thanksgiving Day loss comes on the first day of their second international trip this year and pushes the Colonials on a three-game losing streak.

Senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista led the Colonials with 18 points, six assists and three steals in the losing effort. She drained five three-point shots on the day, tying her career-high tally. Senior forward Kelsi Mahoney and sophomore forward Neila Luma pitched in nine points apiece while freshman center Kayla Mokwuah had eight points and six rebounds.

Georgia Tech was paced by a trio of Yellow Jackets who ended the night in double-digit scoring. Freshman guard Elizabeth Balogun led with 19 points and four assists, followed by junior guard Francesca Pan with 15 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Freshman forward Liz Dixon rounded out scoring contributing 12 points and seven rebounds.

The Colonials shot 39.1 percent from the field, but attempted 16 fewer shots than the Yellow Jackets, who converted 43.8 percent of their attempts. A strong second half effort by GW was deterred by a second quarter that saw the Yellow Jackets outscore the Colonials 27–9.

“We played three out of four good quarters and unfortunately that’s not good enough against a team that has bigger and better athletes than us,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “I thought we learned a lot about ourselves in the second half.”

An athletic department spokesman declined to provide interviews with athletes postgame, citing a department policy.

In similar fashion to Sunday’s road loss to Iona, the Colonials started the game out strong before faltering.

During this match, fast break points and points secured in the paint made the difference in the contest. The Yellow Jackets held a 17–0 advantage in fast break points and kept a staggering 44–12 advantage in the paint.

Rizzotti’s squad opened up playing a zone defense with a full court press, which helped force three early Yellow Jacket turnovers in the first four minutes of play. Two layups in traffic by Luma and a three-pointer by Bautista gave GW an early 7–3 lead.

The Colonials shot the long ball at a 3-for-8 clip in the first quarter and held a 15–11 lead into the second quarter before things turned nightmarish thanks to Georgia Tech’s own full court press.

The Yellow Jackets opened the second quarter with a quick 6–0 run, making uncontested drives to the rim and cashing in easy layups. GW appeared to be out-of-sync and unaware of the shot clock, committing three shot clock violations, a 10-second backcourt violation and two turnovers on inbound passes in a span of five minutes.

The Yellow Jackets crowded passing lanes, penetrated the paint and grabbed offensive rebounds with their size advantage and athleticism. The undersized Colonials fired off a season-high 17 first-half threes to counter the mismatch, but 1-for-9 shooting from long range in the second quarter led to transition opportunities off long rebounds for Georgia Tech.

“When we ran our offense the way we needed to and we executed the way we were supposed to, we also got a lot of good touches around the basket and we got fouled and we made free throws,” Rizzotti said. “We need to be able to balance the three-point shooting with more interior scoring, some driving to the basket and then finishing plays.”

The Colonials were unable to reconcile with their opponent’s size advantage and fast-break opportunities and headed into the locker room outscored 26–10 in the paint. With most of their opportunities coming around the basket, the Yellow Jackets were extremely efficient, making nine of their final 10 shots to take a 38–24 lead at the half.

If locker room adjustments were made, they did not seem to help.

Georgia Tech’s full court press continued to wreak havoc right out of the gate. GW committed another loose ball turnover and 10-second backcourt violation in the first minute of the third quarter, which propelled the Yellow Jackets on a 7–0 run. GW turnovers on four consecutive possessions allowed Georgia Tech to attempt six field goals before the Colonials got off a single shot.

With the Colonials down 45–24, Rizzotti was forced to call a timeout with 8:33 remaining in the third frame as Bautista and Mahoney could not inbound the ball over the outstretched arms of Georgia Tech defenders in the backcourt.

The Yellow Jackets’ largest lead of the night came after Georgia Tech’s Pan made a free throw with 4:12 left in the third quarter to push Georgia Tech up 55–30. GW entered the final stanza down 58–37.

Bautista scored GW’s opening nine points in the beginning of the fourth quarter, which saw improved offensive execution from the Colonials. After falling in the middle quarters, GW won the fourth quarter 18–12 behind 5-for-10 shooting from three.

“I thought we established ourselves a little bit better in the post in the second half, and defensively we looked pretty confident at times,” Rizzotti said. “If we can clean up those turnovers and get a few defensive rebounds I think it’s a different game.”

The Colonials will face No. 15 NC State Friday to round out the tournament. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m.

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