Preview: Women’s basketball at William and Mary

Media Credit: File photo by Dean Whitelaw | Hatchet Photographer

Sophomore forward Chyna Latimer dribbles the ball during a game against Villanova earlier this month.

Who: Women’s basketball
Where: Kaplan Arena, Williamsburg, Va.
When: Saturday, Dec. 29 at 2 p.m.

Twenty days removed from its last contest away from the Smith Center, women’s basketball (2–9) will hit the road for its final nonconference road game against William & Mary (6–4) in Williamsburg, Va. Saturday.

The Colonials were winless across four contests in December, and will have their last chance at a victory for the month before heading into conference play in January. The team has been on break for more than a week, since GW trailed from the opening minutes and suffered a 61–53 home loss to Mercer.

Case for the Colonials:

Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti has stuck with the same starting five of senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista, sophomore forward Neila Luma, redshirt sophomore forward Sarah Overcash, senior forward Kelsi Mahoney and walk-on senior guard Anna Savino since the team’s loss to Maryland on Nov. 15. With the Colonials averaging just 49.5 points per game – the lowest in the Atlantic 10 – she may try to change things up to generate some offense.

It will be key for the Colonials to find touches for Overcash around the rim against the Tribe. Overcash has attempted only one shot in the last three games but GW has been successful when she applies a physical presence at the post. The Illinois transfer had near double-doubles in both of GW’s victories.

William & Mary defends the three-point arc well, allowing opponents to shoot just 26.3 percent from long range this season. Meanwhile, GW has made just 28 percent of its three-point attempts. GW’s best bet will be to pound the ball in the paint and capitalize on its size advantage, as the Tribe starts only one player more than 6 feet tall.

The Colonials have yielded just 60.1 points per game to their opponents, which is the third best mark in the conference, but they are near the bottom in rebounding, blocked shots and free throw shooting. All of these measures will need to improve if GW hopes to win a road game.

With the Tribe struggling to collect offensive rebounds, controlling defensive rebounds and pushing the ball into the paint will be critical if GW wants to come away with the victory. Redshirt junior forward Olivia Gumbs and sophomore forward Chyna Latimer have been bright spots in recent contests, providing Rizzotti much needed depth, and their contributions around the rim might be the boost GW’s offense needs to get going against the Tribe.

Case for the Tribe:

Home court advantage will be huge for William & Mary. The Colonials have yet to secure a victory away from home this season, losing games at James Madison, Iona and USF and dropping two neutral-court contests in the Cancun Challenge. The Tribe are 3–1 this month and 4–1 overall at home. All four home victories have been won by a double-digit margin and the team meets the Colonials coming off an 11-point road win at Norfolk State.

Head coach Ed Swanson, in his sixth year at the helm, has installed an offense that moves the ball well, averaging 15.6 assists per game, which leads the team’s conference. GW has leaned heavily on a zone defense, which can be broken down by an offense that passes the ball well.

William and Mary’s biggest scoring threat is senior guard Bianca Boggs, who was named to the Preseason All-Colonial Athletic Association First Team. Boggs averages 15.1 points, 4.2 assists and 2.8 steals per game while also collecting 6.4 rebounds per game, the second-best on the team. Boggs ranks sixth in the team’s conference in scoring.

The Colonials will see a familiar face on the Tribe’s bench. William and Mary redshirt sophomore guard Harper Birdsong started her career at GW before transferring following the 2016-17 season. Birdsong is averaging 10.5 points per game and has led the Tribe in scoring across the team’s last two contests.

If the Colonials are unable to contain the opposing team’s best players, including Boggs, junior forward Victoria Reynolds and Birdsong, GW will be in for a long afternoon.

Bottom line:

Although GW has beaten Towson at home, beating William & Mary on the road after an eight-day vacation will be a tall task for the Colonials. GW will need a stronghold in the paint from Luma, Overcash and Gumbs to overcome its lack of scoring and give the Colonials a chance to keep up with the Tribe.

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