Who: Women’s basketball
Where: Smith Center, Washington D.C.
When: Thursday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m.
Women’s basketball (2–6) rounds out a three-game homestand hosting Villanova (5–2).
The Colonials have continued to struggle piecing together a consistent offensive showing. Improved play at the Cancun Challenge and a win against Towson suggested that the Colonials were turning over a new leaf offensively, but their improvement faltered last week in a close loss against Monmouth.
Riding a two-game win streak, the Wildcats are accustomed to a high level of competition as the team is a member of the heavy-hitting Big East conference and has beat both Atlantic 10 opponents it has faced so far this season, most recently in a 47–35 win against Saint Joseph’s.
The last time the two teams met was in 2016 when GW downed Villanova 72–69. Four Colonials recorded double-digit points in the match.
Case for the Colonials:
GW’s defense, which is well-known for being a priority of head coach Jennifer Rizzotti and consequently a strength for the Colonials, has been the team’s saving grace this season. Despite holding a losing record, the Colonials have allowed opponents to score only 59.6 points per game, the third best in the A-10.
Heading into the game, GW should focus on securing rebounds – a skill the team holds over Villanova. The Wildcats are typically out-rebounded, with an overall margin of -3.6. GW’s defense could widen that margin, and it has the players to do it.
Against Monmouth, redshirt sophomore forward Sarah Overcash recorded a career-high 14 rebounds. If Overcash, along with the team’s top rebounder, sophomore forward Neila Luma, can continue that trend and sweep underneath the glass, then GW can control the ball throughout the match.
Throughout the season, the Wildcats have been prone to ball-handling mistakes, allowing 6.4 steals and 12.4 turnovers per game. If GW’s defense can capitalize on these miscues and cash them in for second-chance points, they could put themselves in a good position to win.
Excluding the Monmouth game, GW has carried a field goal percentage in the upper .300s to lower .400s over the past four games, a marked improvement from GW’s first three games, which saw the team own an average field goal percentage of .284. If the Colonials continue to stay efficient from the field and bring a balanced effort on the offensive end like they executed against Towson, they should be able to compete hard against the Wildcats.
Case for the Wildcats:
Villanova brings a high-powered offense that outscores opponents by an average of 9.9 points per game to the Smith Center.
With 41.1 percent shooting to their name – significantly higher than GW’s 34.0 percent average shooting clip – and more average triples, rebounds and assists per game than the Colonials, the Wildcats should be able to control the game with their point-production.
Villanova also boasts a strong defense, limiting opponents to 52.9 points per game and earning positive margins in both steals and blocks. If the Colonials let off the gas in any quarter the way they did in their most recent loss against Monmouth, the Wildcat’s defense could be crippling.
In many games, GW has turned to outside shooting to compensate for an opponent’s strong interior defense. The Colonials’ 163 three-point attempts is the third-highest total in the A-10. However, one of Villanova’s strengths is limiting shooting from beyond the arc – holding opponents to 25.0 percent shooting from the three-point line on the season.
If the Wildcats implement a man-on-man defense, they could significantly impair GW’s outside shooting ability and one of the mainstays of the team’s offensive strategy.
With an inconsistent offense, it’s hard to predict how the Colonials will fare against the Wildcats. GW has shown flashes of truly dominant play and will need to bring that firepower to the court against Villanova.
Villanova has the upper-hand heading into Thursday’s game, but if GW can be efficient and aggressive on the offensive end, and lock down the Wildcats on defense, then they might be able to beat the odds.