Growing pains hurt women’s basketball in opening stretch of games

Media Credit: Eric Lee | Staff Photographer

Redshirt junior guard Sydney Zambrotta has started the last four games and has led the team in scoring alongside redshirt freshman guard Tori Hyduke.

Updated: Nov. 14, 2019 at 11:02 p.m.

Women’s basketball experienced a rocky start to the season, dropping two of its first three games and relying heavily on a lineup of fresh faces.

The new faces, led by redshirt freshman guard Tori Hyduke, redshirt junior guard Sydney Zambrotta and freshman forward Faith Blethen, have accounted for 71.3 percent of the team’s total offense this season, but the team is averaging just 57 points per game. Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said the team hasn’t had enough game time to learn and acclimate to each others’ playing styles.

“You get a comfort zone of where people like to get the ball, how they like to cut, and you can give them a look and they understand what you’re talking about,” Rizzotti said after GW’s game at Lehigh Wednesday. “We’re so far from that.”

GW opened its season with losses to Princeton Sunday and Lehigh Wednesday. Both teams were projected to finish first in their respective conferences, well above GW’s seventh place Atlantic 10 seeding.

In both games, the Colonials faced issues like turnovers, scoring in the paint and a team chemistry that is still largely a work in progress. Players have turned the ball over 60 times this season, nine more times than the team’s first three games last season.

The Colonials turned over the ball 19 times against Princeton and 28 times against Lehigh, allowing the two teams to score 29 and 25 points off ball handling errors, respectively. Rizzotti said the turnovers and offensive mistakes resulted from the team’s youth and inexperience.

“We just have too many young guys out there that don’t understand that yet, and so they’re freezing in the moment and missing open guys and overthinking,” Rizzotti said. “It resulted in a lot of poor decisions and poor passes.”

Of the four players to start all three games for the Colonials, three are wearing a GW jersey for the first time this season. Zambrotta, Hyduke and Blethen are leading the team in minutes played, averaging more than 28 minutes per game.

Zambrotta and Hyduke also lead the team in scoring, averaging 13.3 and 11 points per game, respectively. Among players with 10 or more attempts from behind the arc, Zambrotta tops her players with 7-of-18 shots from deep.

Junior Neila Luma has been the constant upperclassman and experienced player this season. Luma has started all three games with an average of more than 28 minutes per game, but she logs just five points and five rebounds per game.

With two years of college basketball under her belt, Rizzotti said Luma will play a major role on defense, but the team still hasn’t grasped their individual roles on the court and for the team yet.

“We don’t have a set role for anybody right now,” she said. “We know who’s going to handle the ball for us. We know that Neila is going to guard the other team’s best player most of the time. We know we can get a couple easy buckets out of Kayla, but we still are very far away from really understanding their roles.”

The graduate transfer pair – Alexandra Maund and Ariel Stephenson – were expected to bring a calming presence to the court this season. But Stephenson has yet to see time on the court this year, and Maund sprained her ankle in the second game of the season, sidelining her for “a few weeks,” Rizzotti said.

“She was really someone who we did have more of a defined role for,” Rizzotti. “Now we’re taking her out of the equation for today and inserting someone else and having to redefine ourselves all over again.”

Once Princeton determined how to shut down the Colonials’ offense, the team did not have a response, resulting in a 25-point loss in their home opener. While Lehigh created a 16-point cushion for themselves, the Colonials put together a comeback run which reduced the final deficit to within 10 points.

Despite the two back-to-back losses, Rizzotti said she saw the team’s mentality shift after falling behind. She added that the team buckled against Princeton but fought back against the Mountain Hawks, which is a positive sign for the remainder of the season.

“Today’s 10-12 point lead turned into a six-point game with one minute left to go,” Rizzotti said. “I am proud of our ability to fight back.”

This post was updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet previously reported that Alexandra Maund was injured in the first game of the season. She was injured in the second game. We regret this error.

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