Preview: Women’s basketball at Saint Louis

Media Credit: Dean Whitelaw | Photographer

Sophomore forward Chyna Latimer dribbles the ball during Thursday afternoon's game against Davidson.

Who: Women’s basketball
Where: Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis, Mo.
When: Sunday, Feb. 3 at 2 p.m.

Women’s basketball (8–13, 5–3 A-10) will head to Chaifetz Arena Sunday to face the Billikens (9–12, 4–4 A-10), looking to improve its 3–4 road record.

During the past three years, GW and Saint Louis have split their last four meetings. Senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista scored 15 points in both matchups against the Billikens last season.

GW is looking to bounce back from a 62–42 loss at home to Davidson Thursday afternoon. Saint Louis is coming off a 60–53 home win against George Mason Thursday, a Patriots team that defeated the Colonials on Jan. 19.

Case for the Colonials:

The Colonials can expect a bounce-back performance from their leading scorer, sophomore forward Neila Luma, who played just 15 minutes and scored four points in the loss to Davidson. Luma was averaging more than 14 points per game in conference play prior to Thursday, but head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said her decreased playing time was due to a lack of effort.

The backcourt of Bautista and freshman guard Maddie Loder has also been in-sync over the past few contests, and when combined with strong efforts from Luma and senior forward Kelsi Mahoney, GW’s offense has enough pieces to counter the Billikens’ two-man scoring punch.

The Billikens do not generate many takeaways, recording just 3.5 steals per game in conference play, the lowest mark in the A-10. GW’s ball security should play into the Colonials’ favor and allow them to control the pace in a difficult road atmosphere.

Surrendering offensive rebounds to their opponents has been an area of concern for the Colonials this season, but the Billikens are the worst offensive rebounding team in the conference, which should help a stout GW defense from giving up second-chance points.

As a team, GW has been doing damage from distance in league play, shooting 35.3 percent from the perimeter. The Billikens have been surrendering triples at a similar rate, meaning that the three-guard attack that has helped GW spread the floor should continue to be an area of strength for the Colonials.

Case for the Billikens:

The Billikens enter Sunday’s contest with some positive momentum, having won three of their last four games.

In her seventh year at the helm, Saint Louis head coach Lisa Stone has guided her team to three consecutive WNIT berths. But this year, she has been working with a roster that returns just one starter from last year’s team, a squad that finished 9–7 in conference play and advanced to the Atlantic 10 tournament semifinals.

A key loss from last year’s Billikens roster is guard Jackie Kemph, the program’s all-time leader in points and assists. Kemph averaged 14 points and five assists in the two matchups against GW last season. But despite the loss of Kemph and two other double-digit scorers, the duo of freshman guard Ciaja Harbison and senior guard Jordyn Frantz have aptly filled the gaps to keep the Billikens alive in the conference race.

Harbison, who earned A-10 Rookie of the Week honors for the week of Jan. 21 to 27, ranks fourth in the A-10 in scoring at 15.0 points per game and leads the conference with 4.6 assists per contest. Her 43.3 percent field goal percentage is the highest among all players averaging as many shot attempts as her. An ESPNW Top 100 recruit out of high school, Harbison is a mismatch nightmare at the point guard position and the likely favorite for A-10 Rookie of the Year.

Frantz, the team’s only returning starter, has made the jump from 8.2 points per game last season to 13.5 points per game this season. As a 35.0 percent three-point shooter, more than half of her makes have come from beyond the arc. Frantz, who ranks seventh in scoring, makes Saint Louis one of only two teams in the league with two players ranked on the top-10 scorers list.

Bottom line:

The Colonials have found success on the road in conference play, and Saint Louis has had a few slip-ups at Chaifetz Arena, including a loss to Rhode Island. GW is a good candidate to bounce back from a tough home loss if it can put together a strong 40 minutes and see Luma return to form.

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