Women’s basketball earned a close victory over James Madison at home Thursday night.
The Colonials (5-3) leaned on their tough defense and hot 3-point shooting for a 54-50 victory over the Dukes (3-4), holding James Madison to 15 points under their scoring average. GW hit 40 percent of its triples and forced 16 turnovers to secure the result despite being out-rebounded by the visitors.
Junior Nya Lok led the way with 15 points for the Colonials in her debut appearance at the Smith Center. She sank 5-of-11 for the game and hit 3-of-6 3-pointers, good for 50 percent from deep. She was also tasked with guarding James Madison’s top scorer, junior Guard Kiki Jefferson, for a large portion of the second half.
“I came with a mindset of just playing hard and outworking my opponent,” Lok said. “I think for me, it was always like coach tells us to know your role. And with that, I just knew my role in that moment to be able to play really well defensively because we are a defensive team and the offense will flow with it.”
For James Madison, Jefferson tallied 20 points and senior Jaylen Carodine grabbed 12 rebounds to lead all players.
GW started the game on an emphatic note as graduate student guard Kyara Frames drained a catch-and-shoot triple to open the scoring. But the Dukes went on a 6-0 run midway through the quarter and jumped ahead 10-7 behind a pair of buckets from sophomore guard Jamia Hazell.
The Colonials responded with a 7-2 run of their own, highlighted by a Nya Lok 3-pointer with 2:28 left and closed out the quarter with a layup from redshirt junior forward Mayowa Taiwo to inch GW in front, 16-15, heading into the second quarter.
Freshman forward Sophie Haydon swatted away a layup attempt and forced a jump ball that led to a corner trey from Frames to put the Colonials in front 21-17 with 6:4 left in the half.
Frames and graduate student forward Ty Moore combined to lead a 9-2 run during the middle of the quarter and Lok connected from downtown with just over two minutes left to maintain a 28-23 Colonial lead as they went into the locker room.
The Colonials effectively executed their offensive sets against James Madison’s 2-3 zone, using great ball and player movement to notch six of their eight assists in the first half alone.
“One of our top keys was to play with poise and I think at that moment, we played with poise and we used a lot of shot fakes,” Lok said. “And you know, staying calm is the best way to go at a zone and at that moment, we’ll just try to look for great shots instead of good shots.”
The Dukes shot 40.7 percent from the floor to GW’s 34.3 percent and ripped down two more boards in the first half, but the Colonials forced seven turnovers that proved to be the difference.
The second half started slower than the back and forth first, as it took two minutes for the first field goal to be scored. Carodine converted an and-one opportunity as part of a 7-0 run to give James Madison the lead back at 30-28.
Head coach Caroline McCombs elected to let her players play through James Madison’s run rather than call a timeout, and the Colonial’s players were able to come back with a run of their own.
Sophomore guard Taylor Webster scored GW’s first points of the second half when she sank a 3-pointer with seven minutes left in the quarter, putting the Colonials back on top 31-30. GW continued its momentum as sophomore guard Aurea Gingras got a steal and found a streaking Lok for a fast break layup, putting the Colonials up by 5 with 5:02 left in the third.
“As a coach, I want to have composure,” McCombs said. “I want them to have confidence in each other and our team so the more that I allow them to play through those things, I think the better that we’re going to get.”
Lok and Taiwo combined to score 6 points in the last 90 seconds of the third quarter to give GW some breathing space heading into the final frame leading 44-37.
After scoring 2 points in the first half, Taiwo was able to score 6 in the second on a perfect shooting percentage.
“My teammates and my coaches just kept encouraging me to be aggressive and keep attacking the basket and the ball would fall in,” Taiwo said.
The Dukes started the fourth quarter on a high note, with Jefferson scoring 4 points and Goodman adding 2 more in a five-minute span that cut the Colonial lead to 46-43.
A pair of free throws from Jefferson closed the gap to 50-47 and GW saw Moore limp off the court with an injury with less than three minutes left in the contest.
Gingras was able to slash her way to the cup for a layup with two minutes remaining, but James Madison drilled a clutch 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to make it 52-50 with a minute and a half to play.
After forcing a timely turnover by Jefferson with eight seconds left, the Colonials survived several nail-biting inbounds sequences and eventually got the ball to Gingras with five seconds remaining, who was fouled and hit both of her free throws to finalize the win.
“Obviously, we’re new and learning and for our team to just be resilient throughout the entire game,” McCombs said. “Different players contributed and we had a lot of balance today. So just really proud of our effort from start to finish.”
The Colonials will be back in action Thursday evening to take on crosstown rival Georgetown. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.