Women’s basketball shuts down Old Dominion for best start in five years

Women’s basketball’s defensive prowess was on full display in its battle with Old Dominion Saturday.

The Colonials (2-0) smothered the Lady Monarchs (0-1), and redshirt junior forward Neila Luma scored 18 points in a 55–37 win. GW is off to a 2-0 start to the season for the first time since 2015.

“We want to score more than 50 points, but we definitely make sure that we have weapons at every position,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “We want to be in a place where they don’t know where the offense is going to come from.”

Freshman center Ali Brigham also notched double-figure scoring numbers with 10 points, while graduate student guard Jasmine Whitney led all players with four assists and five steals. Redshirt sophomore forward Mayowa Taiwo returned from an ankle sprain to bolster the GW bench after the team dressed just seven players in its last game against Lincoln.

Old Dominion shot 26.3 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 22 times. The Lady Monarchs also missed seven of their 12 free throw attempts. Junior forward Amari Young earned a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, while tacking on five steals.

After a Lady Monarch turnover, Whitney drove to the hoop for a layup to start the scoring, and Luma followed, sinking four consecutive points for an early 6–0 Colonial lead. After holding Lincoln to just 11 field goals in its season opener, GW’s defense prevented Old Dominion from scoring its first points for more than four minutes.

A step-back midrange jumper from Luma with four minutes left in the opening frame put the Colonials ahead 12–4. Four GW turnovers in as many minutes to close out the first quarter brought the Lady Monarchs within two possessions. Old Dominion took 10 more shots than the Colonials in the quarter but fired at a .278 clip.

Old Dominion went ice cold in the second quarter. The Colonials forced five turnovers and held the Lady Monarchs to 0-of-13 shooting. A free throw from Young was the only bucket for the visitors.

Brigham and Luma made Old Dominion pay, combining for all 10 of GW’s points in the frame. Brigham was the tallest player on either team and found success around the rim, grabbing five offensive rebounds.

“It feels great in that I know Ali’s just a freshman but I trust her,” Luma said. “She’s a great player. She gets the job done. She’s in there getting rebounds and scoring layups, so it feels great to have another post player in there so we can work off each other.”

Whitney played every minute of the first half and led the floor with six rebounds at the buzzer. The former Pitt guard played her first game since last March in the season opener against Lincoln, but Rizzotti said she expects Whitney to rarely see the bench this season.

“It’s been a long time since she’s been out there, so I’m really impressed with the shape that she’s in and the leadership she’s provided,” she said. “I’m not really super concerned about her offense coming along because she impacts the game in so many other ways.”

Sophomore forward Faith Blethen delivered the first three-pointer of the game by either team when she struck with four minutes remaining in the third frame to give GW a 35–19 advantage. Blethen stuffed the stat sheet with two blocks, two steals, five points and seven rebounds.

“Faith was all over the floor today from rebounding to scoring to getting really great looks for everyone,” Luma said. “I think that she had a really solid overall game and she did a lot of key things to help us win today.”

Old Dominion improved offensively in the third quarter, shooting 4-of-15 from the floor, but still could not keep up with the Colonials. The Lady Monarchs tallied nine points but were hampered by seven turnovers. GW scored 13 points to extend its lead to 39–22 entering the final 10 minutes.

The Lady Monarchs opened the fourth quarter on a 7–2 run, with six of those points coming from junior guard Ajah Wayne. Wayne led her squad with 11 points on the afternoon. Rizzotti called a timeout that sparked a 12–2 Colonial run in the following four minutes.

Two late three-pointers from senior guard Victoria Morris could not inspire an Old Dominion comeback, and GW freshman guard Area Gingras waltzed through the defense for a layup with nine seconds remaining to cap GW’s win. The Colonials never trailed in the contest, and every player up and down the bench scored.

GW will face Virginia Tech in its first road game of the season Tuesday. Tipoff is slated for 5 p.m.

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