Women’s basketball falls to James Madison despite last-minute push

In a back-and-forth first quarter, both teams were deadlocked at nine points apiece. Redshirt sophomore forward Mayowa Taiwo stole the ball, and women’s basketball charged to the hoop. Freshman forward Caranda Perea nailed a jumper on a pass from fellow freshman guard Aurea Gingras to give the squad the lead with 30 minutes left to play.

But after being outscored by a combined 15 points in the following two frames, the team relinquished its early advantage and fell to James Madison Wednesday afternoon. The Colonials (2-2) could not keep up with the Dukes’ (4-1) firepower on the offensive end, falling 79–69.

Freshman center Ali Brigham, who is averaging a team-leading 13 points, continued to provide a spark off the bench for the Colonials, laying down a career-high 19 points. Brigham became the first GW freshman in at least 15 years to score double-digit points in the first four games of the season.

Redshirt junior forward Neila Luma, who is also averaging 13 points on the season, added 16 baskets – all in the second half.

“I thought we did a good job of feeding the hot hand today,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “When Neila got going, our guards did a good job of making sure she continued to get touches, so that was definitely a positive from the game too.”

Sophomore guard Kiki Jefferson dropped a floor-leading 23 points for James Madison, while freshman guard Peyton McDaniel pitched in 19. Graduate student forward Anne Diouf ripped 13 rebounds, more than twice as many as any other Duke or Colonial.

The Colonials struggled to shoot the ball efficiently, hitting 35.6 percent from the floor and 15.4 percent from beyond the arc. The squad has stumbled from three-point territory so far this season, firing at a .161 clip. GW added 25 points from the free throw line to buoy its offensive output. The Dukes drained 44.8 percent of their shots, including 33.3 percent from downtown.

A triple from Jefferson opened the scoring, but GW’s defense was otherwise stout early on, forcing three turnovers in the first three minutes of action. GW finished the quarter strong, going on a 4–0 run in the final two minutes. Taiwo stood tall on the defensive end, notching a block and a steal during the Colonials’ run that put them up 11–9.

The Colonials kept the ball rolling at the start of the second quarter, with Gingras knocking down her first three-pointer of the season to begin the frame.

A floater from McDaniel that tied the game at 14–14 sparked a flurry of scoring for both teams. A jumper from Perea and a transition three from Brigham put the Colonials ahead 19–14.

The Dukes went on a 6–2 run in response, and freshman guard Jamia Hazell eventually hit from downtown on the tilt to tie the game 25–25 with just less than four minutes left in the half.

Hazell’s three started a 10–0 run for James Madison that featured another long ball from Jefferson and back-to-back layups by Diouf. The Dukes held their largest lead of the game so far at 32–25 with less than two minutes to play in the second frame.

The Colonials were able to cut into the advantage before halftime with a pair of buckets from Perea and Gingras, but they still trailed 35-30 heading into the locker room. Gingras and Perea finished with career-highs of seven and six points, respectively.

“Aurea, Ali and Caranda all were really ready to play and they provided a lot of offense for us, both in their scoring and their efficiency,” Rizzotti said. “So that’s always a good sign when they have the confidence and skill to step on the floor and play with the type of opponent of JMU.”

James Madison shot 44 percent from the field and from three-point land in the first half. GW managed to hit 36 percent of its shots and was outrebounded 18-14.

McDaniel hit a wide-open three to give James Madison a double-digit lead with seven minutes to go in the third quarter, and the Colonials could not catch up from there. A James Madison parade to the free throw line stifled the Colonials’ momentum – the Dukes knocked down 11 shots from the charity stripe in the frame.

Brigham and Luma combined for GW’s last 10 points of the quarter, but their efforts could not prevent the Dukes from entering the fourth quarter with a 63–50 lead.

Luma opened the fourth with a jumper that cut the lead to 11 points. She scored eight points in the quarter, but the Dukes were able to stave off any potential comeback. Although James Madison led by as many as 19 in the fourth, the Colonials fought until the end, scoring 11 points in the last minute of the game.

GW’s starting guards — graduate student Jasmine Whitney and junior Maddie Loder — combined to shoot 1-of-17 from the floor. Rizzotti said she wants them to relax more on the hardwood and trusts that the shots will come.

“I have confidence in them, and they’ve both been practicing so well so it’s hard as a coach,” Rizzotti said. “You get so frustrated when you know how hard players are working in practice, and it’s not translating, but I’m very confident that they will.”

The Colonials made a short road trip to Howard Sunday. Opening tip was slated for 2 p.m.

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