Halfway into the second quarter Wednesday, women’s basketball held a double-digit lead over VCU. Just three minutes later, the Rams snatched the advantage and never looked back.
A quick 17–3 run for the home team at the end of the first half sent the Colonials (4-10, 1-7 A-10) into a 67–60 defeat against the preseason conference-favorite Rams (7-7, 5-2 A-10). GW controlled the game throughout the opening 15 minutes but could not recover from a VCU offense that netted a combined 45 points in the second and third frames.
“There’s a level I feel like at the point guard spot that we’re consistent, at the post spot we’re consistent, but certainly those two guard spots and on the wings have been my puzzle I need to figure out,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said.
Freshman center Ali Brigham carried the load on the offensive end, racking up a career-high 26 points on 12-of-15 shooting.
“Offensively, today you saw that she can be a problem,” Rizzotti said. “VCU’s one of the better defensive teams in the league, and she basically ate them up. I thought our guards and our post players did a great job of feeding her.”
Junior guard Maddie Loder was the only other Colonial to reach double figures, adding 11 points.
The Rams were led by senior guard Tera Reed, who grabbed 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals. Freshman guard Sarah Te-Biasu and redshirt junior guard Janika Griffith-Wallace both chipped in with 13 points.
GW was the more efficient team from the floor, shooting 45.6 percent to VCU’s 41.7 percent, but free throws and three-pointers gave the Rams the edge they needed. VCU knocked down 10 of its 11 free throws and sank 36.8 percent of its triples, while the Colonials were just 6 of 11 from the charity stripe and were on target 16.7 percent of the time from downtown.
Te-Biasu opened the scoring with a three just more than a minute into the game. Brigham muscled her way to the hoop for a layup in response on the ensuing possession. Loder gave the Colonials a 4–3 lead in similar fashion, driving through the lane for an open layup of her own.
As the Rams continued to struggle from the field early on, Loder was finding her rhythm. She converted an and-one with just less than four minutes remaining to put GW up 11–3. A triple from Griffith-Wallace gave VCU a much-needed basket, and she converted a pair of free throws afterward to bring the Rams within three points.
Sophomore forward Faith Blethen got in on the action with less than a minute remaining in the frame, scoring an and-one that padded GW’s lead up to 14–8 as the teams went into the second quarter.
The Rams started the ensuing frame on a stronger note. Two buckets and a steal in the first minute pulled them within two points of the Colonials. Brigham answered, tallying five layups during a three-minute span that gave GW a 24–14 advantage.
With four minutes to play in the half, the Rams awakened on the offensive end. VCU’s 17-3 run to close out the half was highlighted by a pair of treys from Griffith-Wallace, and GW lost its 10 point lead to trail 31–27 going into halftime.
The Colonials have surrendered leads in several of their recent performances. Rizzotti said the coaching staff has been discussing ways to protect those leads, which could include spending timeouts more liberally.
“I may just have to burn a few,” Rizzotti said. “If that means that we don’t have any late in the game, then at least it’s like we didn’t lose the game in the first half.”
The long ball was killer for the Colonials in the first half. GW made one more shot than VCU, but the Rams knocked down four from beyond the arc while the Colonials failed to find the bottom of the net from deep.
Momentum shifted back-and-forth in the third quarter, preventing GW from mounting a sustained comeback. The Colonials got within one point of the Rams at 35–34 after a triple from freshman forward Carranda Perea, but VCU was able to build its lead back to eight by the midway point of the frame.
A five-point burst from freshman guard Aurea Gingras and redshirt junior forward Neila Luma made it a one-possession game with less than four minutes left, but the Rams again managed to pull away. A 9–2 run over the remainder of the frame, including a bank-in triple from Te-Biasu at the buzzer, gave VCU a 53–43 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Brigham scored the first eight Colonial points in the final frame, but the team could not close the gap. Rizzotti said Brigham was “as good as any freshman I think I’ve ever recruited.” She currently leads the roster in scoring, averaging 11.8 points per game.
Brigham’s layup with more than two minutes left made it a 63–58 game, but GW failed to score again until Loder dropped in a bucket as time expired. The Colonials committed three turnovers in the final 90 seconds of play, stifling any hope of a late surge.
After five consecutive road games, the Colonials will return to the Smith Center to take on Richmond Friday. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m.