Preview: Women’s basketball at George Mason

Media Credit: File Photo by Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Sophomore forward Neila Luma looks to pass during last month's game against George Mason.

Who: Women’s basketball
Where: Eaglebank Arena, Fairfax, Va.
When: Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.

Women’s basketball (8-14, 5-4 A-10) will make the short journey to Virginia to take on George Mason (11-10, 3-5 A-10) for the second time this season.

The two local rivals already met once in a 64–60 win for the Patriots on Jan. 19. Sophomore forward Neila Luma tied her career-high with 22 points in the outing despite fouling out in the losing effort.

Both teams are coming off road defeats, with the Colonials most recently falling to Saint Louis 60–44 Sunday. The Patriots came up short against St. Bonaventure 64–55 and have gone 1–2 in the three games following their match against GW.

Case for the Colonials:

GW has dropped its last two Atlantic 10 games after winning five of six games prior to the losses. The Colonials have proven they can compete in the conference after struggling with a tough early-season schedule and sit at seventh place in the league.

Luma has been a force to be reckoned with in the A-10 so far. She averages 14.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game in conference play, all of which are team-leading. She caused problems for Saint Louis’ defense with her ability to drive to the basket and land mid-range jumpers, and if she can improve on her 44.2 percent free throw rate in the A-10, she will be a threat from all areas of the paint Wednesday.

The emergence of freshman guard Maddie Loder has given the Colonials an extra ball handling option on the court. Loder has started every A-10 game, averaging 7.5 points per game while also chipping in with 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Luma, Loder and senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista will have a chance to reignite GW’s offense against a Patriots defense that ranks 10th out of 14 teams in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 64.7 points per game.

In the last meeting between the teams, the Patriots outrebounded GW 49-27 despite not having a player taller than six-feet-two-inches. Since that game GW has improved in the rebounding department, posting at least 31 boards in three out of the four games since, including 39 rebounds against Duquesne. In what should be another close matchup, control of the glass will be crucial in determining the winner.

Case for the Patriots:

George Mason looks dominating on paper but has fallen short when it comes to tallies in the win column. Despite winning just three conference games thus far, sophomore guard Nicole Cardano-Hillary leads the A-10 with 20.6 points per game while junior forward Jacey Bolton leads the conference with 8.7 rebounds per game. The Patriots also rank third in the A-10 in scoring averaging 66.0 points per game.

Cardano-Hillary was held to 13 points by the Colonials earlier in the year but Bolton scored 17 points in the win. GW’s defense has been strong in the A-10, holding foes to 55.7 points per game – good for fourth in the league – but the Patriots have managed to score 64 points at the Smith Center already this year and could be set to exceed that number if Cardano-Hillary can play to her potential at home.

While George Mason sits in 10th place in the A-10 in scoring defense, giving up 64.7 points per game, the Colonials are last in offense. GW has mustered the fourth-lowest offensive output in the country with 51.3 points per game, according to an NCAA ranking of Division I programs. Considering the Colonials have not eclipsed 45 points in their last two games, the Patriots should be able to compensate for their defense with offensive production.

Bottom line:

The Colonials will have their work cut out for them to keep up with the Patriots’ offense on the team’s home court. Although GW managed to score 60 points in the last meeting between the teams, the Colonials have struggled on offense in their last two games.

GW will need to be firing on all cylinders offensively to keep pace with the Patriots, and it seems more likely that George Mason will be able to pull away from the Colonials and win its fourth conference game of the year on the team’s own turf.

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