Women’s basketball snaps five-game losing streak with win over Massachusetts

Media Credit: File photo by Tyara Estrada | Photographer

Freshman center Kayla Mokwuah faces off against a Saint Joseph's player earlier this month.

A 31-point third quarter helped propel women’s basketball over Massachusetts Wednesday night.

The Colonials (9-17, 6-7 A-10) snapped their five-game losing streak with a 66–59 win over the Minutewomen (13-14, 5-8 A-10), turning in their third-highest scoring game of the season.

Three players reached double-digit scoring for the Colonials. Senior forward Kelsi Mahoney notched a season-high 21 points, shooting at a 7-for-12 clip from beyond the arc. Freshman center Kayla Mokwuah recorded a double-double with 15 points along with 16 rebounds while chipping in with four blocks.

Sophomore forward Neila Luma put up 10 points while senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista contributed eight assists.

Massachusetts was led by freshman guard Destiney Philoxy, who had 24 points on 57.1 percent shooting on the night, but no other Minutewoman garnered more than eight points.

“We still have our lapses at times but we’re more locked in defensively throughout the game than we’ve been in a long time,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “There’s a little bit more toughness to us.”

Massachusetts entered the game as the best three-point shooting team in the Atlantic 10, knocking down 33.1 percent of its threes heading into the game. But the Minutewomen were held to 8.7 percent shooting from deep by the Colonials.

“We were definitely focused on their shooters tonight, getting out and making them put the ball on the floor to score,” Rizzotti said.

An athletic department spokesman declined to facilitate interviews with student-athletes after the game, citing a department policy.

In the first quarter, Mahoney had nine points on a trio of three-pointers, more points than Massachusetts tallied as a team in the frame.

A layup from sophomore guard Bre Hampton-Bey was the entirety of the Massachusetts attack for the first six minutes of the game as the Colonials stepped out to an 8–2 lead.

Junior guard Hailey Leidel scored four straight points for Massachusetts following another Mahoney three to close the gap to 11–8, but Mokwuah knocked down two free throws with less than a minute remaining in the quarter to give the Colonials a 13–8 advantage heading into the second frame.

Philoxy started the quarter with a nice drive to the basket and a layup for the Minutewomen to make it a single possession game again. A quick layup by Hampton-Bey pulled the Minutewomen to within three points of tying the game 15–12.

But between stout GW defense and Massachusetts miscues on offense, the Minutewomen did not score for the rest of the half.

An and-1 from redshirt sophomore forward Olivia Gumbs followed by four points from Mokwuah gave the Colonials a 22–12 to end the half.

A 25.8 percent shooting percentage from GW limited the damage for the Minutewomen, who were lucky to only be down by 10 points at the half.

Massachusetts shot 18.5 percent from the floor in the first half and failed to convert any of its 13 three-point attempts. The Minutewomen narrowly edged the battle on the boards, 22–21, but the Colonials racked up seven assists to the Minutewomen’s one en route to a double-digit lead.

Luma and Bautista, GW’s leading scorers entering the game, were both held scoreless in the first half while Mokwuah stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

“She’s been really growing up a lot in the last three weeks on both ends of the floor,” Rizzotti said. “I wouldn’t be able to play her as much if she wasn’t.”

Both teams came out of the locker room with revitalized offenses. After scoring nine points in the second quarter, the Colonials racked up 31 points in the third quarter while Massachusetts scored 23 of its own.

Bautista, who was shooting 0-for-8 in the first half, drained a three less than a minute into the third quarter to increase GW’s lead 25–12.

Redshirt freshman Anil Soysal’s putback layup pulled Massachusetts closer but the 11-point deficit at 25–14 with 8:58 to play was as close as the Minutewomen got to GW until the waning minutes of the game.

A three-pointer from Mahoney with about five minutes remaining in the third quarter gave the Colonials their biggest lead of the game at 40–16.

“It was a big night for her, she found her spots and she was patient,” Rizzotti said. “But she was ready to shoot and aggressive and that helps us a lot.”

The Minutewomen came on strong in the later stages of the quarter and Philoxy scored 10 of her points in the final five minutes of the third frame, but were unable to stop GW from taking a 53–35 lead into the final quarter.

Mahoney nailed a pair of threes to start the fourth frame to restore GW’s lead to 24 points, 59–35. Massachusetts rallied and managed to score 24 points in the fourth quarter, including a 14–2 run in the final two minutes of the game but it was too little, too late to chase down the Colonials.

GW returns to the Smith Center for its final two home games of the regular season when St. Bonaventure comes to town on Sunday. Tipoff is set for noon.

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