‘I wasn’t ready for this season to be over’: Women’s basketball exits A-10 Tournament

Media Credit: Jack Borowiak | Staff Photographer

Redshirt freshman forward Mayowa Taiwo sets herself up for a free throw in a game against Richmond Tuesday. The Colonials fell to the Spiders to drop out of the A-10 Conference.

Heading into its Atlantic 10 first-round match against Richmond Tuesday, women’s basketball hoped to repeat its double-digit win against the Spiders from just three days prior.

But a hot streak from Richmond in the final frame combined with a low-scoring spurt from GW sealed the Colonials’ fate. GW (14-16, 8-9 A-10) fell to Richmond (15-16, 9-8 A-10) 57–49, ending their postseason run with a home loss.

“I’m just disappointed for the players,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “I really wasn’t ready for this season to be over. I feel like we made some pretty big strides in the month of February as a team. We figured a few things out, but I still felt like there was better basketball to be played.”

The first quarter was filled with buckets. Both teams traded the lead throughout 10 minutes of play, and each hit almost identical field goal percentages, 53.9 percent for the Spiders and 53.3 percent for the Colonials.

Richmond opened an early lead after going on a 10-2 run through five minutes, but redshirt junior guard Sydney Zambrotta found sophomore center Kayla Mokwuah near the rim, and she elevated for a layup.

On the next possessions, Zambrotta hit a three. She continued her offensive onslaught the next trip up the court, slicing through the Richmond defense for a reverse layup after graduate student guard Ariel Stephenson notched a steal. The duo cut the lead to a single point.

“They were pressuring us a lot in our last game and in this game as well, and so we had to tweak our offense, and not even tweak, just be more careful with our offense and make sure that we were getting open for our teammates,” graduate student forward Alexandra Maund said. “That was a huge adjustment for us.”

Redshirt sophomore guard Tori Hyduke pushed a pass to Maund, who hit a layup to tie the game up at 17 at the end of the first quarter.

Sophomore guard Maddie Loder hit a layup for the first bucket of the second quarter, sparking a nine-point run. The Colonial defense managed to keep the Spiders scoreless for seven and a half minutes, but Richmond responded with a bucket in the paint. On the next possession, a Zambrotta turnover led to a three-point bucket for freshmen forward Elaina Chapman with less than three minutes left.

“We started switching up our defense on them from man to zone and I think that confused them,” redshirt freshman forward Mayowa Taiwo said. “Our intensity was also pretty high.”

Despite a draining clock, the Spiders turned Chapman’s bucket into an 8-2 scoring run, which whittled down the Colonials’ lead to one entering the halftime break.

In the second quarter, Richmond outshot the Colonials marginally, splashing 5-of-13 buckets compared to the Colonials’ 4-of-11 shooting performance from the floor.

Richmond burst out of halftime with a dagger from deep, snatching a lead off an early three from sophomore guard Claire Holt. But Taiwo leaped for a layup in the paint to tie up the game again.

The back-and-forth continued throughout the quarter, with both teams scoring 11 points each, and the Colonials entered the final frame with a one-point lead.

Three-point shooting increased in the fourth quarter. The Spiders shot 4-of-6 for a 66.7 percent clip from deep, doubling their three-point field goal total from the opening three quarters. The Colonials struggled to match their pace, taking just one shot from three-point territory and missing from deep.

The Colonials also struggled to secure baskets from the floor, sinking 2-of-9 and tacking on six free throws for 10 points in the final frame. Richmond secured the victory with a 19-point quarter, the largest offensive production of either team in a quarter.

“They did some nice penetrate and kick opportunities,” Rizzotti said. “A lot of them were on missed rotations by us or switches by us that we weren’t really focused on getting back out to the shooters. We talked about that after Saturday. I thought we gave them too many open looks on Saturday, to be honest with you, and they missed them, today they didn’t.”

Despite bowing out in the same round as they did in last year’s A-10 Tournament, the Colonials managed to give themselves home-court advantage after winning three games straight to close out their conference schedule.

“I’m sad that we couldn’t end on a higher note for our seniors and I thank them for the hard work they’ve put in, the commitment that they’ve had to make this a better program and to build a strong foundation with our young guys so that we can be successful in the future,” Rizzotti said.

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