In a game riddled with scoring runs, La Salle stymied women’s basketball’s nine-point lead in the third quarter with a 16-point run spanning from the end of the third frame into the fourth quarter.
The Explorers (10-14, 4-7 A-10) worked the lead to 14 points until the Colonials (10-14, 4-7 A-10) built up an 11-point run of their own in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. But the squad couldn’t complete the comeback effort, falling to the Explorers 61–54 Wednesday.
“There were times when they went on a run, and we lost focus,” redshirt freshman Mayowa Taiwo said. “So we need to be a better team about keeping focus for that 10-minute stretch and eventually that whole 40-minute stretch.”
La Salle opened the game with two consecutive triples. Taiwo and junior guard Lexus Levy, who earned her second consecutive spot in the starting rotation, notched five points for the Colonials, pulling them within one point of the lead.
The Colonials couldn’t contain the Explorers from deep in the first quarter, allowing them to hit 60 percent of their attempted three-pointers. Six of La Salle’s seven field goals came from beyond the arc in the first frame. After the first quarter, the Colonials trailed 20–10.
Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said the team’s game plan was to prevent La Salle from heating up from three-point range, but the Explorers’ hot start set the tone for the game.
“I know we responded, and we held them to one three-pointer in the second quarter, but that’s a sign of a lack of maturity a little bit with our group,” Rizzotti said. “You might get tired late and not be able to follow the game plan, but you have no excuse in the first quarter to not be prepared.”
The Colonials relied on a mixture of defensive aggressiveness and efficient offense to flip the script in the second quarter. GW held La Salle to just 1-of-14 shooting from the field and 1-of-6 attempts from deep. On offense, they outscored the Explorers 12–4.
With less than four minutes left in the half, redshirt sophomore guard Tori Hyduke hit a jumper to spark a six-point run. She led the team in scoring, notching 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. Graduate student guard Ariel Stephenson tacked on two free throws.
In the closing moments of the quarter, Stephenson launched a crisp pass to graduate transfer forward Alexandra Maund for a layup, cutting the deficit to two. The Colonials entered the locker room down 24–22.
“We made sure that we were on our man, we were helping more, we were talking more,” Maund said. “We were just committed to defending how we were supposed to defend and it showed. I have nothing more to add to that than we just actually decided to defend.”
The Colonials dominated in the paint and on the glass. They outscored the Explorers in the paint 28–14 and crashed the boards to outrebound La Salle 46–33. Taiwo led the team in rebounds, ripping a floor-leading 11.
Rizzotti said she employed a constant rotation of players, subbing out five at a time to keep legs fresh and to distribute the pressure fairly. She used the same method in GW’s 56–55 upset victory over VCU Sunday.
“I wanted to find a way to relieve some of this pressure like it’s not one person’s responsibility to win the game for us,” Rizzotti said. “All 10 of you are going to have a chance to play double-figure minutes, so just try and get out there for those two and a half, three minutes and give me everything you got.”
At the opening whistle of the second half, the Colonials’ offense kept its foot on the gas and stretched its second-quarter momentum into an 11-point scoring run. With 5:30 left in the third, GW had outscored La Salle 13–3.
But over the course of the next eight minutes, La Salle silenced the crowd and outscored the Colonials 27–5. Both teams shot more than 50 percent from the floor in the third quarter and both teams connected on two attempts from deep.
La Salle took a 14-point lead as time ticked down in the final frame. Despite the tall lead, the Colonials battled back in the fourth and scored 11 straight points off a pair of threes, a pair of layups and a free throw.
The Explorers clung to a slim three-point lead with three and a half minutes remaining until the final buzzer sounded. Their offense held pace with the Colonials and La Salle finished the game on top 61–54.
“You have to be creative and find ways to make them feel good about how they’re playing,” Rizzotti said. “There’s too many stretches today where we got wide-open looks and didn’t knock them down. My job as their coach is to figure out how to get them to feel better about how they’re playing more often. That’s the bottom line.”
The Colonials return to the hardwood Saturday as they look to knock off George Mason in the Revolutionary Rivalry. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m.