Women’s basketball struggled to put points on the board Friday, matching its lowest season point total in its loss to James Madison.
The Colonials (6–5) fell to the Dukes (8–2) 69–50. James Madison’s veteran leadership, which saw a WNIT semifinal run last year, and composure helped to deliver a strong and consistent performance against a relatively young GW squad.
“I want our team to see that this is the kind of performance that we’re expected to have as we get older and we start to learn each other better,” head coach Jeniffer Rizzotti said. “When I schedule games against Princeton and Maryland and Minnesota and James Madison, it’s because I don’t want it to be easy and I want them to learn how to fight.”
James Madison held GW to 33.3 percent from the field and 23.5 percent from deep throughout the game. Graduate student forward Alexandra Maund led the team in scoring, notching 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field. Redshirt freshman guard Tori Hyduke rounded out the Colonials in double-digits, netting 10 points for her ninth double-digit scoring effort of the season.
Redshirt junior guard Sydney Zambrotta returned to the hardwood after a stress fracture relegated her to the bench for seven games. As a starter, she played 35 minutes and netted eight points but recorded a team-high six turnovers.
In the first quarter, the Dukes employed a full court press that placed immediate pressure on the Colonials’ point guards. Rizzoti said she adjusted the team’s press break to facilitate long passing and help the scoring guards connect with players down low. Rizzotti added that the team, which netted 24 points down low, needed to look toward its forwards and centers for scoring.
“In a game where they’re not doubling and they’re switching, our centers need to have the most shots and they need to have the most shot attempts,” Rizzoti said.
The squad struggled early on to defend James Madison. The Dukes shot 42.9 percent from the field and 30.3 percent from deep for 23 points in the first frame. But in the second quarter, the Colonials battled back and outscored their competition by five to enter the half down 37–32.
Rizzotti said the Colonials shook up their defensive looks to better handle the Dukes’ offense.
“We mixed it up a little bit, more man to zone, and didn’t let them get as comfortable in running their man offense, so we went back and forth a little bit and I think our guys were much more keyed in on their personnel and their tendencies,” Rizzotti said.
Senior guard Kamiah Smalls led all scorers with 23 points for the Dukes. She shot 9-of-15 from the field and sunk three of her five three-point attempts.
In the third frame, the Colonials continued their trend of improvement and came within one possession of seizing the lead. But James Madison’s experienced squad weathered the storm and finished the quarter up nine points.
“We have a very new team out there and they have a very veteran team out there, so I think that when games get tight, their guys are just a little bit more used to how to band together and figure it out,” Rizzotti said.
James Madison’s momentum carried into the fourth quarter, opening the last phase of the game with a nine-point run. The Dukes outscored the Colonials 17 to seven in the fourth to close out the game.
In the second half, the Colonials went cold from beyond the arc, missing all five of their three-point attempts. The fourth quarter also saw their lowest field goal percentage of the night, shooting at a .154 clip on 13 attempts.
GW turned over the ball 15 times – below its average of 19.4 turnovers per game. The squad capitalized on the Dukes’ 11 turnovers to score 14 points, while James Madison netted six from GW turnovers.
Rizzotti said the backcourt needs to find balance between making aggressive, sharp passes and worrying about turning the ball over.
“Finding that balance of being secure with the ball, making simple plays, but also finding their opportunities to score is something they need to get better at, but I need them to have positive assist-to-turnover ratio every night,” Rizzotti said.
The Colonials are back in action Sunday at American. Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m.