La Salle tops women’s basketball with fourth quarter surge

Media Credit: File Photo by Zach Brien | Staff Photographer

Sydney Zambrotta, a redishirt junior guard, looks to pass in last week's game against Saint Louis.

With less than five minutes in women’s basketball’s matchup with La Salle, graduate student guard Sydney Zambrotta nailed a pair of free throws to bring GW within three-points of the lead. But La Salle hunkered down and went on an 11-point run to cement a double-digit advantage until the final buzzer.

The Colonials (4-8, 1-5 A-10) managed to out-rebound the Explorers (7-7, 3-4 A-10) by a 42-35 margin but committed 20 turnovers and managed just four successful three-point shots en route to a 60–45 defeat.

La Salle scored 23 points in the fourth quarter to secure the victory and the Explorers let loose a barrage of shots from beyond the arc all night. Of their 21 field goals, 11 were from downtown.

“Tonight I thought in the second half it was more that we had to kind of figure out how to match up with them and they did a good job of spreading the floor,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “You know, knocking down big threes and like I said continuing to be disruptive to us on the defensive end.”

GW is in the midst of a five game road trip and the team has spent the last nine days in a hotel, Rizzotti said.

Zambrotta got her first start of the campaign for the Colonials and led the way with 17 points. Fellow graduate student guard Jasmine Whitney also reached double figures, scoring 10 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists.

La Salle was paced by junior forward Kayla Spruill, who racked up 23 points – 13 of which were in the fourth quarter – on 8-of-16 shooting. Sophomore guard Claire Jacobs and junior guard Molly Masciantonio, who finished with 11 points apiece, rounded out all double-digit scorers.

Zambrotta opened the scoring with a three from the corner off a dish from Whitney. A trey from Spruill two minutes later gave La Salle a brief advantage. Redshirt junior forward Neila Luma scored in the paint and redshirt junior guard Gabby Nikitinaite dropped in a triple to reclaim the lead.

Long balls continued to fall for GW in the opening quarter as freshman guard Aurea Gingras scored from range, extending the visitors’ lead to 11–6 with four minutes remaining in the first frame.

A Spruill layup kept the Explorers close as the quarter wound down, but freshman forward Caranda Perea sank a smooth jumper on GW’s last possession to take a 13–8 lead into the second frame.

The Colonials entered the game shooting 18 percent from beyond the arc but knocked down three of their four attempts in the opening 10 minutes against La Salle. The Explorers’ eight-point performance was tied for their worst start to a game this season.

Luma found a cutting Whitney who finished under the rim for the first basket of the second quarter. The Colonials suffered a three-minute scoring drought after the bucket, and La Salle tied the game at 15 after back-to-back threes from Jacobs.

GW was able to respond quickly to the Explorers’ burst. Brigham and Whitney both scored layups within 20 seconds of each other to edge the Colonials back in front with five minutes left in the half.

The remaining minutes of the half belonged to La Salle, which went on a 7–2 run to close out the second quarter and took a 22–21 lead into the break.

Spruill scored the last four points of the half and racked up 10 points during the first two periods of play, while Gingras led the Colonials with five points. Brigham, who entered the contest averaging 10.8 points per game, struggled to get going against a swarming La Salle defense, taking only one shot and committing three turnovers.

Luma rattled in a jumper on the first possession of the second half to immediately give GW its lead back. Whitney intercepted a cross-court pass and took it coast-to-coast for a layup that put the Colonials up 25–22 early on in the third frame.

Zambrotta and Masciantonio traded baskets back-and-forth for the remainder of the quarter. The pair accounted for 15 of the 17 points scored during a four-minute flurry in the middle of the frame that deadlocked the score at 32.

“We need her scoring,” Rizzotti said. “We need her to be consistent. We need her to defend well. We need her to play like a fifth-year senior. That’s the bottom line. She’s got to continue to step up and play like an upperclassman. We’ve got to have our older guys play better.”

La Salle sophomore guard Amy Jacobs hit a three with less than a minute on the clock in the third quarter to give the Explorers a 37–34 lead heading into the final frame.

Scoring temporarily dried up early in the fourth quarter. Neither team scored a point until the 6:29 mark when Claire Jacobs drilled a transition three to extend La Salle’s lead to two possessions – its largest of the game at that point.

After Spruill scored a triple of her own, Zambrotta responded with a pair of free throws that kept GW within touching distance, trailing 43–40. From then on, it was all La Salle as the Explorers went on a 17–5 run to close out the contest.

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