Women’s basketball stuns VCU in upset victory

Media Credit: Dean Whitelaw | Photographer

Senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista dribbles around a VCU player during a women's basketball game Wednesday.

Women’s basketball went into Wednesday night’s matchup against VCU as underdogs and came out as the only team in the Atlantic 10 to notch a victory over the Rams.

GW (7-12, 4-2 A-10) connected with shots from beyond the arc against the top defense in the A-10 and handed the Rams (13-6, 5-1 A-10) their first conference loss of the year in a 57–48 win.

“It’s always good to play good competition because we learn things and it’s a confidence-booster,” senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista said. “VCU was a really, really good team and we had that focus because this is our home floor. Who cares about the record, let’s just play and do what we do.”

The victory came thanks to hot three-point shooting by Colonials, paced by a 6-for-11 performance by Bautista from the perimeter. Bautista fell one point short of her career high, tallying 21 points on the night to lead the Colonials, while adding three steals and five assists to her stat sheet at the end of the game.

The Colonials scored 10 three-point shots in total against a VCU defense that limited opponents to 21.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc, a mark that was good for first in the nation. The Rams were stifled from the same spot on the floor, going 1-for-14 from the three-point line.

“We made 10 threes because we were able to spread the floor,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “So even though we gave up some size and some rebounding, I thought that it worked in our favor that we had a smaller lineup out there for a lot of the game.”

On the glass, redshirt sophomore forward Sarah Overcash and sophomore forward Neila Luma both grabbed 10 rebounds for GW.

The Rams were paced by junior center Danielle Hammond with 18 points and sophomore guard Tera Reed, who had nine points and six rebounds.

Both teams left points on the table, shooting an identical 15-for-26 from the free throw line.

A thrilling first quarter began when Bautista drained a three-pointer on GW’s first possession of the game. VCU’s vaunted defense held strong afterward, preventing the Colonials from scoring again until the 4:02 mark when Bautista sank another triple.

“Everyone was there for me,” Bautista said. “So it wasn’t part of the game plan but I just came in ready to play.”

Another three by Bautista rounded out GW’s scoring in the quarter, with all nine points belonging to the guard. VCU found success down low, scoring eight points in the paint and leading 12–9 heading into the second quarter.

Freshman center Kayla Mokwuah got GW going right away in the second frame by scoring a tough layup to close the gap to just one point, but the Rams went on a quick 5-0 run off of a pair of turnovers from GW.

A free throw from freshman guard Maddie Loder and a baseline jumper from Luma made it a one-possession game at 17–14 with about six minutes remaining. Sophomore guard Taya Robinson grew VCU’s lead after securing the team’s only three-point shot of the night at the 5:30 mark to put the Rams up 20–14.

But from then on, it was all GW.

Bautista swiftly responded with a three of her own to bring GW back to within three points. Reed landed a pullup jumper for VCU with three minutes remaining to push the score 22–17, but Reed’s field goal was the last for the Rams until the one-minute mark of the third quarter.

“Every day in practice we’re working on our defense so we don’t really change what we do for teams,” Loder said. “Our defense is a big part of what we do.”

Sophomore guard Lexus Levy slipped a pass to Loder for an easy layup with 2:39 on the clock and found her again one minute later, this time from beyond the arc to tie the game 22–22. Loder then assisted a go-ahead three from senior forward Kelsi Mahoney. Luma rounded out the 9-0 run with a free throw to send the Colonials into halftime with momentum and a 26–22 lead.

“Maddie really stepped up,” Rizzotti said. “Now that her shots are going down and she’s finding her opportunities to drive to the basket, I think she really has a better sense of how she can help our team.”

Neither team took care of the ball well in the half, with VCU turning over eight times and GW giving up the ball 11 times.

But GW’s defense held the Rams to 34.6 percent shooting in the first half, including 16.7 percent from long range. The Colonials went 6-for-13 from beyond the arc which proved to be the difference at the break.

Loder and Bautista both made threes in the first two minutes of the third quarter and the Rams did not register a field goal until Reed converted a layup with just one minute remaining.

GW’s defense held the Rams to 1-for-12 shooting from the floor, but seven made free throws by VCU kept the team competitive while GW held a 39–31 lead heading into the final quarter.

VCU came out strong in a fourth quarter that saw 26 free throw attempts between both teams. A layup from Hammond brought the Rams within striking distance at 46–44 with 2:25 remaining in the match.

But Bautista had other plans, nailing yet another three-pointer with a minute remaining. The three gave the Colonials a five-point lead and forced VCU to foul for the final 60 seconds of play. GW’s free throw shooting solidified enough to secure victory over the top team in the A-10.

Next up for the Colonials is a trip to Duquesne on Sunday with tipoff set for 2 p.m.

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