Women’s basketball stomps Lincoln in home opener

Within the first 75 seconds of women’s basketball’s win over Lincoln Wednesday, redshirt junior forward Neila Luma ripped a rebound and nailed the putback jumper to get the squad on the board.

Luma went on to record a double-double – 16 points and 17 rebounds – in her first game since sustaining a knee injury last November. The Colonials (1-0) held the Lions (0-1) to eight points in the first half en route to a 53–38 victory.

“I put a lot of work in over the summer, and when I came back to school here, I just had confidence in myself and I believed in my teammates,” Luma said. “I just overall felt pretty relaxed out there.”

Sophomore forward Faith Blethen scored all of her 13 points in the second half, and freshman center Ali Brigham added 10 points off the bench to round out GW’s double-digit scorers.

GW dressed just seven players for the matchup after a swathe of injuries sidelined experienced contributors. Graduate student guard Sydney Zambrotta sported a cast on the bench for a broken middle finger while redshirt sophomore forward Mayowa Taiwo is nursing a sprained ankle.

Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said Taiwo and freshman guard Piper Macke may be available to reinforce the thin roster for GW’s next game. Freshman forward Caranda Perea could return within one or two weeks, Rizzotti said.

Luma and Rizzotti both made statements expressing the team’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement after the game, and the squad wore BLM warm-up shirts prior to the game. BLM is one of the movements the program is promoting and raising awareness for as a part of its initiative, “Season of Action.”

Lincoln struck first as junior guard Jeana Weatherspoon grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on the game’s first possession. The Colonials made an effort to get the long ball going early on. Junior guard Maddie Loder alone launched three attempts from beyond the arc in the first four minutes of the game but failed to connect on any attempts.

“You know, we obviously looked a little bit tight,” Rizzotti said. “I thought that some of our guys were just so excited to make their first shot that they were rushing.”

GW settled down after the first five minutes. Brigham scored her first collegiate points by knocking down a pair of free throws to put the Colonials ahead 6–3 with three minutes remaining in the opening frame. Brigham enjoyed a significant size advantage in the paint all night and scored a layup on GW’s next possession to increase the lead to 8–3.

Defensively, the Colonials managed to force more mistakes from Lincoln. The Lions ended the first quarter with five turnovers and trailed GW 12–6.

Brigham scored down low again with six minutes remaining in the half to stretch GW’s advantage to 16–8. Luma found her stroke in the second frame as well, draining a pair of jumpers. Within the final four minutes, Brigham found Luma down low and she finished to reach double-digits.

GW entered the half ahead 22–8. The Colonials made more rebounds than the Lions 31-23 but missed all 14 of their three-point attempts. Luma and Brigham combined for 20 points of the team’s first half points. Luma also controlled the boards in the first half, grabbing seven rebounds on the offensive and defensive ends, respectively.

Blethen scored the first two field goals of the second half, giving GW a 17-point lead – its largest of the game. She added the team’s first three-pointer of the season with just less than six minutes left in the quarter.

The Lions scored 12 points in the third frame but a 4–0 Colonial run put the home team in front 36–20 heading into the final 10 minutes.

Lincoln came out swinging in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Colonials 9-2 in the first three minutes and cutting the lead to single digits after a triple from sophomore guard Janya Lilly.

Sophomore guard Essence Brown struck back with a three of her own at the midway point of the quarter. Blethen knocked down her second long ball of the game from the exact same spot where Brown had hit from 15 seconds earlier, padding GW’s lead up to 44–29.

A pair of buckets from Luma and graduate student guard Jasmine Whitney gave GW a 48–29 lead. Whitney hit a cutting Brigham with a dime on an inbound pass a minute later to put the Colonials up by 20.

Blethen put an exclamation point on the victory after launching another triple with 20 seconds left on the clock. The squad fired at a .328 clip from the field and a .160 clip from deep to wrap up the game. The Colonials held the Lions to 18.6 and 18.8 from the floor and behind the arc, respectively.

“If we’re going to score more points, we’ve got to be able to shoot earlier in the shot clock,” Rizzotti said. “I’m not disappointed in the misses. I’m not disappointed in the attempts and the selection. I really believe that we’ll settle right into our offense and be able to do a better job of surrounding Neila, Ali and Mayowa when she comes back with some shooters on the perimeter.”

The Colonials are back in action at the Smith Center Saturday to host Old Dominion. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.

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