Within the opening minute of women’s basketball’s rematch with Davidson Thursday, redshirt junior forward Neila Luma swished a jumper from just outside the key to put GW on the board. The squad would net eight more points in an almost seven-minute span before Davidson found the bottom of the hoop.
The Colonials (7-12, 4-9 A-10) controlled both ends of the floor for the full 40 minutes, routing the Wildcats (8-11, 5-8 A-10) 59–44 for their third straight win. In its past three games, GW held every opponent under 50 points and nabbed the victories by double-digit margins.
“We’ve scored the ball better, but we’ve also defended really, really well,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “And so it seems to be that things are clicking on both ends for us.”
Freshman center Ali Brigham, who earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honors Monday, led the Colonials with 14 points on 7-of-16 shooting. Graduate student guard Jasmine Whitney narrowly missed a triple-double, netting 11 points, ripping eight boards and dishing out seven assists.
Luma and redshirt junior guard Gabby Nikitinaite rounded out GW’s double-digit scorers with 10 points apiece. Luma shot 83.3 percent, and Nikitinaite sunk 2-of-3 three attempts from beyond the arc.
Junior guard Cassidy Gould led the Wildcats with 14 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore guard Cameron Tabor followed closely behind with 13 points thanks to 3-of-7 three-point shooting. Davidson was without its top-two scorers – junior guard Chloe Welch and sophomore guard Suzi-Rose Deegan – who average a combined 26.9 points per game.
The Colonials shot the ball at their second highest clip this season, sinking 49 percent. In the second half alone, GW hit 54.2 percent of its attempts and landed 4-of-9 from three-point territory.
Davidson found the hoop at a lower rate, shooting 34 percent from the field. The Wildcats struggled from the three-point line, netting just 6-of-26 from deep.
GW dominated the paint, scoring 30 points down low – 12 more points than the Wildcats – and snatched 11 more boards. While the Colonials turned the ball over 14 times, the squad capitalized on turnovers at a higher rate, outscoring the Wildcats 18-14 on points from turnovers.
The team also spread the wealth on the offensive end, handing out 15 assists with all nine scorers putting points on the board.
Luma opened the scoring with a jumper outside the key. Tough defense from the Colonials outlasted the Wildcats’ shot clock, giving the squad the ball back and allowing Brigham to score on the team’s following offensive drive.
“We were all invested, and that shows when all five of us are working hard to not let them score, and that just brings our energy up,” Brigham said.
Whitney scored the next two buckets, and Luma endcapped the 10-0 run with a layup. At the 3:39 mark, Davidson scored its first points – a triple from Tabor – and followed the play with a jumper to string together a five-point tilt.
Sophomore guard Essence Brown swished a corner three to snap the mini run, and Nikitinaite nailed a jumper to put herself on the scoresheet and work the advantage up to eight. The Colonials closed the half shooting 46.7 percent and held their opponent to 27.3 percent from the field.
Davidson started the second frame with a triple, but GW quickly stole the momentum. Redshirt sophomore forward Mayowa Taiwo sunk two attempts from the charity stripe to spur a six-point tilt that extended the lead to 11.
A jumper from Gould at the four and a half minute mark would be the Wildcats’ final bucket of the half. GW held Davidson scoreless and tacked on four more points to enter halftime with a 25–12 advantage.
“Once they got comfortable, we changed back to a different defense, so I like the versatility of this team,” Rizzotti said. “It allows us to play a lot of different ways and create a lot of different matchup problems. But bottom line, you’ve got to sit down and have an intensity to how you want to defend no matter what we’re in, and the team has really bought into that.”
Both teams’ offenses exploded in the third quarter, scoring a combined 38 points. The Wildcats opened the half with a four-point run before Luma responded with another jumper from the charity stripe. Both teams traded baskets before hitting a two-minute drought.
The Colonials outscored the Wildcats 12-3 – thanks to two triples from Nikitinaite – in a four-minute stretch to extend the lead to 17 points. Davidson fired back with two jumpers, but the Colonials entered the final 10 minutes with a 15-point advantage.
Both teams traded baskets in the first half of the frame, but GW found its footing and hammered the final nail in Davidson’s coffin. A layup from Brigham began a seven-point run. Sophomore forward Faith Blethen joined in on the fun, swishing a shot from beyond the arc, and Whitney wrapped up the run with two free throws to stretch the lead to a game-high 20 points.
GW avenged an earlier four-point loss to the Wildcats, besting the squad by 15 points to split its home-and-home series.
“I’ll be happy if they add a few games down the stretch for us because we want to keep playing,” Rizzotti said. “We want to keep this momentum going. We’re playing good at the right time, and that’s every coach’s hope.”
The Colonials are set to return to the court Feb. 28 to take on George Mason. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.