Women’s basketball trailed Dayton by three points approaching the final minute of the first half last week. Freshman guard Aurea Gingras passed to graduate student guard Sydney Zambrotta, who had spent the last nine games watching from the sidelines with a hand injury.
Zambrotta swished the team’s first triple of the contest and knotted the game at 29. A quick triple to end the half from Dayton cemented the Flyer’s (6-1, 5-0 A-10) lead for the rest of the game. The Colonials (3-7, 0-4 A-10) dropped the matchup 67–54.
“Things don’t always go your way, but I feel like I have coached teams in the past that they kind of start feeling sorry for themselves when things don’t go their way,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “That’s not this team.”
Redshirt junior forward Neila Luma and graduate student guard Jasmine Whitney led the team in scoring with 10 and 12 points apiece on a combined 11-of-21 shooting. Whitney dished a team-leading four assists, while Luma ripped a team-high six rebounds.
Redshirt senior guard Jenna Giacone led the Flyers with 17 points on 46.7 percent shooting, including three three-pointers. Junior forward Kyla Whitehead notched 14 points and 12 rebounds in her first double-double of the season.
Redshirt senior guard Araion Bradshaw rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11 points firing at a 3-of-6 clip.
GW shot at a 35.5 percent clip, and sunk just 3-of-20 from deep. Dayton hit 45 percent of its attempts, including 6-of-17 from beyond the arc. The Flyers dominated the paint, scoring 38 points in the paint and grabbing 44 rebounds. The Colonials netted just 20 points down low and collected 31 rebounds on the afternoon.
“I’m trying really hard to not focus too much on the numbers, focus too much on the record,” Rizzotti said. “Every coach wants to win. We all want to win, but I want to coach a team that I’m proud of. And this team makes me really proud.”
The Colonials’ turnovers per game have been trending downward after reaching a season-high 23 against Howard. Against Dayton, GW turned the ball over just eight times and recorded 14 assists for a 1.75 assist to turnover ratio.
The Flyers started the scoring off, collecting a missed trey and nailing the putback. GW immediately struck back as Whitney hit a jumper. Back-to-back buckets from sophomore guard Essence Brown and Luma lifted the Colonials to a two-point advantage.
Luma scored six consecutive points for GW, answering each attempt Dayton took to capture the lead. The Flyers defense would shut down the Colonials for the final two minutes of the quarter, allowing Dayton to build a four-point cushion heading into the second frame.
A layup from Bradshaw on the opening possession would continue to widen the Flyers’ lead. GW fell into an eight-point hole and remained scoreless through the first three minutes of the quarter until Luma sunk a jumper.
After more back-and-forth basketball, two free throws from redshirt junior guard Gabby Nikitinaite spurred an offensive comeback. Freshman center Ali Brigham scored on the next possession after the Flyers turned the ball over, and fellow freshman forward Caranda Perea nailed two shots from the charity stripe to bring GW within one possession.
“We’re really feeding off our defense and the intensity and all of the energy in the gym,” Luma said. “I’m feeling really good about that, and then just finding open shots and running off of each other and playing in a flow.”
Zambrotta tied the contest with her triple, but redshirt sophomore guard and forward Maliya Perry responded with a triple of her own to send Dayton into the second half ahead 32–29. In the first two frames the Colonials were firing at a 41.4 percent clip, and Dayton was shooting a slightly better 46.9 percent.
Dayton took advantage of the third quarter to create some space between itself and GW, outscoring the Colonials by eight. The Flyers opened the quarter on a 9-2 tilt to extend the advantage to double digits.
Brigham and Whitney combined for six points that kept the lead within an arm’s reach, but Dayton worked the lead up to 13 points heading into the final two minutes of the frame. GW held the Flyers scoreless for the last 120 seconds, and Luma sunk a layup at the last second to enter the final quarter down 11.
A six-point spin to start the final frame extended the Flyers’ lead to 17-point lead. Nikitinaite ended the three-minute GW drought with a three-pointer. The Colonials would whittle Dayton’s advantage down to 11 points in the final minute of the fourth quarter, but the late push wasn’t enough to finish on top. The Flyers walked out of the Smith Center with a 67–54 victory.
“I loved their execution at the end of the game today and we worked a lot on that,” Rizzotti said. “I thought we got a lot of good shots without having to call a timeout, and that’s something we’re trying to get better at. I’ve got to make sure I always have them prepared.”