Preview: Women’s basketball vs. VCU

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Sophomore guard Chyna Latimer dribbles the ball during last Saturday's game against George Mason.

Who: Women’s basketball
Where: Smith Center, Washington, D.C.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m.

After dropping 64–60 to George Mason Saturday, women’s basketball (6–12, 3–2 A-10) is looking to get back on track against VCU.

The Rams (13–5, 5–0 A-10) lead the Atlantic 10 and will bring their lights-out defense to Foggy Bottom on a quest to avenge a 61–39 defeat suffered the last time the two teams met. In that game, senior forward Kelsi Mahoney dropped 17 points for the Colonials while no VCU player recorded more than six points.

Case for the Colonials:

GW’s defense has been solid all year and the Colonials are fifth in the A-10 and hold opponents to 58.3 points per game.

Perimeter defense has particularly been a highlight for the team. The Colonials let opponents convert just 26.9 percent of shots from three-point range, but the Rams have made the fewest threes in the A-10 with 80 on the year. If the Colonials plug the middle and force the Rams to take the harder shot on the perimeter, GW might be able to stifle the Rams’ scoring to keep the game competitive.

The Colonials had a slow start, but have seen improvement in their offensive production in A-10 play. The Colonials have scored 60 points or more in three of their five conference games, including their last two matchups. The recent uptick in scoring bodes well for head coach Jennifer Rizzotti’s team, and GW will have to continue that dominance against a stout VCU defense.

Sophomore forward Neila Luma has continued putting up consistent points at the forefront of GW’s offense, averaging 19.25 points per game over the past four games. She has the ability to dominate inside and if her midrange jumpers line up, she will present a challenge for the Rams’ defense.

Luma’s increased role on offense has allowed senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista to become a Swiss Army knife on the floor. In her last two games combined, Bautista has tallied 20 points – an impressive tally by itself – but she has dished 15 assists along with eight steals, nine rebounds and a block. Her dynamism and energy make her an invaluable asset for the Colonials on the court and her play-making ability could help turn the tide Wednesday.

Case for the Rams:

Head coach Beth O’Boyle’s team has been dominant in A-10 play this year. Aside from a tight 47–44 win over Fordham on Jan. 16, the Rams beat every A-10 foe they have faced by at least 19 points. VCU dismantled Rhode Island 74–39 last time out, showing its prowess on both sides of the ball.

While VCU sits fourth in the A-10 in average points per game with 61.8, the team’s stifling defense has made the Rams tough to beat in conference contests. The Rams have allowed just 40.8 points per game in the A-10 this year, while the Colonials are last in scoring in the A-10, averaging 51.7 points per game. That combination will continue the edge VCU has carried all season.

The Rams lead the A-10 in field goal percentage converting 42.6 percent of their shots per game. They lack a clearly superior scorer, but the team is able to string together some strong runs when the ball is in the hands of sophomore guard Tera Reed.

Reed leads VCU in scoring with an average of 13.4 points per game, but she converts 45.2 percent of her field goals and 41.0 percent from three-point range. If the Rams are able to get Reed the ball, she will cause problems for GW on defense.

While VCU ranks only seventh in the conference in rebounding, grabbing 37.3 per game, GW may still encounter issues on the glass. The Colonials are 12th in the A-10 with 34.4 boards per game, but they lack height against a Rams squad that starts sophomore center Sofya Pashigoreva, who comes in at 6 feet 6 inches tall. By contrast, GW’s tallest player is freshman center Kayla Mokwuah, who has not started a game all year and is 6 feet 4 inches tall. Rizzotti will have to decide whether to throw Mokwuah into the deep end or rely on a shorter defensive player to play big to contest Pashigoreva down low.

Bottom line:

The matchup between VCU’s shutdown defense and GW’s inconsistent attack should not cause any surprising results. The Colonials’ streak of tallying more than 60 points in a game will likely come to an end against the Rams.

VCU’s balanced offense may not be flashy, but it is effective. The Colonials will likely keep better pace with the Rams on defense and may be able to force them out of the paint and isolate Reed – but if GW struggles on offense, VCU should pick up its sixth conference win and continue its undefeated A-10 campaign.

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