Women’s basketball kicks off 2019-20 season with victory over Villanova

Complete with a balanced offense and strong defense, women’s basketball triumphed over Villanova Wednesday on the road.

The Colonials (1–0) defeated the Wildcats (0–1) 68–56 and showcased four of its new faces in the starting lineup. The Colonials secured the lead early in the game and never let up, avenging its 60–45 loss to the Wildcats last season.

“It’s a great way to start the season,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “As well as we played to be able to get the win, there’s still a lot we can improve on. So it’s nice to have a good feeling about where your team is at the beginning but also knowing that there’s still a lot of room to grow.”

Redshirt junior guard Sydney Zambrotta and graduate student forward Alexandra Maund led the team in points with 17 and 12 a piece. Zambrotta and redshirt freshman guard Tori Hyduke both shot 50 percent from outside the arc.

Junior forward Neila Luma returned to the court after sitting out the exhibition match, netting nine points of her own and leading the team with seven rebounds. She played 35 minutes, second to Hyduke’s 36 minutes.

Rizzotti said Luma brings a “calming presence” on the court and anchors the team’s defense.

“She really is our most important player, which is why I leave her out there for so long,” she said. “She guarded the best player on Villanova’s team for most of the game.”

The team’s overall defense put on a strong showing, securing 31 rebounds and six steals. The offense also capitalized on turnovers, earning 16 points off of 15 Villanova turnovers.

“We wanted our defense to force more turnovers this year,” Rizzotti said. “We wanted to be able to play a little bit faster. We felt like we had depth and athleticism and length so it was nice to see us get our hands on a lot of balls and be able to start our fast break that way.”

The Colonials were quick out the gate, securing an early six-point lead off two three-point buckets by Hyduke and Zambrotta. Villanova relinquished eight points off six turnovers and completed 6-of-13 shots. At the end of the first quarter, the Colonials led 21–15.

Both teams came out cold in the second quarter, scoring only a few buckets a piece. The Wildcats eventually gained some momentum, scoring six unanswered points to come within two points of GW at 25–23.

But GW widened its lead yet again. Stout defense induced a nearly four-minute-long scoring drought for the Wildcats. The Colonials maintained a healthy lead at the end of the half with a score of 38–25 and finishing on a 13-2 scoring run.

The Colonials extended their lead in the third quarter, going on another run over a four-minute period and notching 12 points to hold the Wildcats to 1-of-8 from the field. GW started to falter offensively in the latter half of the quarter but retained a 53-36 lead at the break.

In the final quarter, the Wildcats managed to outscore the Colonials by five points and trim the lead. But the Wildcats could not overcome the deficit in the end despite applying a last-minute high pressure defense that caught the Colonials off guard.

“We were in a position where we had to work on breaking a press at the end of the game and weren’t quite ready for that,” Rizzotti said. “We can certainly do a little bit more end of game situation, based on that scenario.”

The Colonials outshot the Wildcats across the board, shooting at a .438 clip from the field and draining 41.7 of its shots from behind the arc. The Wildcats strung together a 34.4 field goal percentage and finished just 22.4 percent of its chances from the three-point line, going 7-of-31.

The Colonials dominated inside the paint, securing 40 of their points on drives to the basket. Rizzotti said the team hopes to continue its balanced offense throughout the season.

“You can get a good open looks when you have good post threats and then you can get good close touches when you have good scoring threats from the perimeter,” she said.

While the Colonials came away with a victory, Rizzotti said the team has to hone its execution for its next matchup against Princeton Sunday.

“They’re certainly going to be an aggressive team defensively,” Rizzotti said, referring to Princeton. “I’ve played college ball with their new coach and we both come from the same cut of cloth where you’ve got to be really good at man-to-man defense, so it might turn into a defensive battle on Sunday.”

The Colonials return to action Sunday for their home opener at the Smith Center against Princeton. Tip off is slated for noon.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.