Women’s basketball won their home opener against American University Tuesday night.
The Colonials (1-0) defeated the Eagles (0-1) in a thrilling come-from-behind victory 58-47. After a slow start, the Colonials found a spark in the second quarter before eventually seizing the lead in the third quarter and kept the Eagles at bay to claim the first victory of head coach Caroline McCombs’ GW career.
“What I like is that we got down and we had to fight through some adversity and that really showed some perseverance with this group,” McCombs said. “I was so proud of that.”
GW started the game off in a slump, struggling to score on offense and allowing a multitude of easy layups for American. After an opening layup by redshirt junior forward Mayowa Taiwo, GW conceded 10 unanswered points inside the paint with 6:45 remaining in the first quarter. Junior guard Maddie Loder hit a 3-pointer to end GW’s scoring drought and cut the deficit to 5 with 5:55 left in the first.
The Colonials finished the first quarter down by a score of 16-8. American earned 12 of their 16 first quarter points in the paint and the remaining 4 points from the free throw line from fouls drawn near the basket. The Eagles outshot GW by a wide margin, converting 6-of-8 from the field compared to the Colonial’s 3-of-14. GW attempted eight of 13 total 3-pointers in the first quarter alone, sinking just two of them.
GW fared better in the second quarter, outscoring the Eagles 12-7. The Colonial defense was able to force eight turnovers through forced travels and shot clock violations and hold the American offense to just 2 points in the paint.
“We were encouraged to attack, attack, attack because we were letting them defend us, we weren’t even making them work for it,” Taiwo said.
Graduate student guard Sierra Bell spurred the Colonial attack, drawing fouls by driving to the basket and hitting 4-of-4 from the charity stripe. With 7:10 left in the second quarter, Bell grabbed an offensive rebound and moved the ball until graduate student guard Kyara Frames hit a jump shot with 6:59 left to bring GW within 2 at 18-16. Sophomore guard Taylor Webster hit a layup with 38 seconds left in the half to bring GW’s total up to 20 points.
The Colonials went into the locker room down just 23-20 despite shooting only 25 percent in the first half compared to the Eagle’s 60 percent. GW was able to hang around through a strong effort on the glass, grabbing eight offensive rebounds and scoring 4 second chance points. GW would finish the game with nine more offensive rebounds and 10 more second-chance points than American.
“We want to be relentless on the glass and we’re able to do that with second chance opportunities,” McCombs said.
GW came out of the half driving toward the basket as graduate student forward Ty Moore and Taiwo began imposing their will on the game. Moore would finish the game with a double-double, notching 18 points and 11 rebounds, while hitting 9-of-12 from the field. Taiwo would accumulate 10 points and seven rebounds of her own, while netting 5-of-7 from the field to cap the night.
“We want to focus on getting them the ball,” McCombs said. “At halftime, we really talked about that more. We were getting away from who we are. We want to play inside out and I think you know, simple things that we do every day in practice.”
Frames scored the first bucket of the half, using a crossover move to get into the teeth of the defense and hit a layup. With 6:12 left in the third quarter, Taiwo hit a layup to bring GW within one at 29-28. Despite an Eagles 3-point bucket, Taiwo hit another layup with just over five minutes remaining.
After another Eagles 3-pointer, Moore converted a mid-range jumper and with 4:30 left, Taiwo intercepted a pass and sprinted down the length of the court, finishing with an emphatic layup to bring the Colonials within one yet again. Junior guard Sheslanie Laureano slashed through the American defense and converted a layup to put GW ahead 36-35 and earn their first lead of the game since Taiwo’s opening layup.
GW finished the third quarter up 40-37, scoring 16 points in the paint. GW vastly improved their shooting, netting 10-of-15 field goals, good for 66.7 percent from the field. Meanwhile, the Colonial defense held American to just 6-of-14 from the field, despite allowing two 3-point buckets.
“We had a one stop one score mentality,” Taiwo said. “Just keep it on a loop.”
GW dominated in the fourth quarter, registering 7 unanswered points to start the period, eventually outscoring American 18-10. Moore unleashed an onslaught of mid-range jumpers, scoring 8 of her 18 total points in the final quarter alone.
After Webster hit a free throw to open the scoring, Moore stole the ball a few possessions later and finished a layup on the fast break, prompting a timeout from the Eagles’ bench. The Colonials kept up the pressure, but the Eagles were able to pull within 4 points at 49-45 with 3:44 left in the quarter.
Moore hit a contested fadeaway to put the Colonials up 7 points with just over a minute to play. With 14 seconds left in the game, sophomore guard Aurea Gingras hit a pair of free throws to pad GW’s lead to 58-47 by the sound of the buzzer.
Now, the Colonials will prepare for another home matchup at the Smith Center, this time against Virginia Tech at 7 p.m. Thursday. Though the Hokies were ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press’ preseason collegiate women’s basketball poll, Moore said she’ll be ready for the next game after going up against Taiwo all week in practice.
“That’s all I got to do,” Moore said. “If I can check her, I can check anybody.”