Women’s basketball did not go down easily against No. 15 NC State in another early-season test for GW.
The Colonials (1–5) faced their second nationally ranked opponent of the season, but fell to the Wolfpack (6–0) 69–61 in GW’s final game of the Cancun Challenge Friday. The loss marks GW’s fourth in a row this year, matching last season’s longest drought.
GW limited NC State – a top-20 three-point shooting team in the nation this season – to 29.6 percent from beyond the arc on an 8-for-27 clip. The Colonials forced 15 Wolfpack turnovers while committing just five of their own.
“There was a level of toughness that we had and I think, more importantly, just more of an attention to detail,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “I thought we got better over the course of the tournament.”
But the Wolfpack dominated under the glass, grabbing 48 rebounds to GW’s 22 while converting 17 second-chance points off 17 offensive rebounds. NC State picked up more than double the points in the paint as GW, ending the game with 32 to GW’s 14.
A trio of Colonials tallied double-digit scoring, led for the second game in a row by senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista with 19 points, including five made three-point shots. Senior forward Kelsi Mahoney and sophomore forward Neila Luma tallied 16 points and 14 points, respectively, while collecting five rebounds apiece. This game marks the first time this season more than two Colonials have ended a game with double-digit points.
An athletic department spokesman declined to provide interviews with athletes postgame, citing a department policy.
NC State was led by redshirt junior guard Grace Hunter with 21 points on the afternoon. Freshman center Elissa Cunane pitched in with 18 points of her own.
Unlike the last time GW took on a nationally ranked squad and fell 69–30 to then-No. 9 Maryland, the Colonials kept pace with NC State and outplayed them at times.
But the team was held at bay by the Wolfpack’s explosive offense. GW ended the night shooting 39.3 percent from the field despite an 11-for-29 total from beyond the arc. The Wolfpack shot 44.1 percent from the field.
The Colonials’ zone defense baffled NC State at the start of the game. In their first four possessions, the Wolfpack missed two three-pointers and turned the ball over twice.
The Colonials took advantage with an early three from Bautista and a jumpshot by Luma. GW led 5–0 before the Wolfpack got their first points on the board, when Hunter drilled a jumper in the paint to spur a 6–0 scoring run of her own and push NC State ahead by one.
A three-point shot by Mahoney – who finished the night with four-made threes – returned GW’s lead, but the Wolfpack drained three consecutive three-point shots to pull ahead 15–8 with two minutes left in the frame.
Bautista picked up four unanswered points to put GW within three of the lead, but back-to-back threes by Hunter gave NC State a 21–12 lead heading into the second quarter. Hunter tallied a total of 12 points in the first 10 minutes of play.
Despite the slow start, GW dominated the second frame. Luma tallied six points to help GW outscore the Wolfpack 19–14. The Colonials drained three of their five first-half three attempts in the quarter.
A three from senior walk-on guard Anna Savino cut NC State’s lead to three points and a jump shot in the paint by Luma put GW within two points of the lead with a minute left before the half, but late misses from Bautista and redshirt sophomore forward Sarah Overcash sent NC State into the locker room holding a 35–31 advantage.
At the break, the Colonials were being outrebounded 23–10 and were shooting 43.3 percent from the field to NC State’s 48.3 field goal percentage.
An energetic third quarter saw the Colonials cut the lead to one point on five separate occasions as Bautista nailed three of her four attempts from beyond the arc. But the 6-foot-5-inch Cunane came off the bench for NC State to score eight unanswered points to end the third quarter.
NC State also drew more fouls in the third frame. After going to the line just twice in the first half, the Wolfpack drained eight of their eight shots from the charity stripe to push the lead 55–46. GW made just one trip to the free-throw line in the entire contest.
“Teams like that don’t make mistakes, they don’t let you get away with anything,” Rizzotti said. “The first mistake you make, they get a layup in transition. First time you don’t box out, they get three offensive rebounds in a row.”
Cunane scored again to open the final quarter but GW answered with a 7–0 run punctuated with a three by Mahoney. Just when it seemed as though the Colonials – who were trailing by four after Mahoney’s three – could rally for an upset victory, NC State went on a 10–0 run to give themselves breathing space.
A late eight-point burst from GW was not enough to trouble the Wolfpack as they maintained their undefeated start to the season.
“We definitely need to have three or four guys scoring 7 to 12 points,” Rizzotti said. “It’s nice when Mei puts up big numbers but we’ve got to have other guys step up.”
The Colonials hit the hardwood Tuesday against Towson at the Smith Center. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.