Women’s basketball defeated VCU 69-61 at the Smith Center Sunday, clutching control until the very end with lockdown interior defense and an offensive onslaught from their elite duo of guards.
The Colonials (13-8, 5-3) withstood the Rams (5-13, 2-4) after VCU fought back from an 18-point deficit to reach within eight points, but the Colonials’ relentless defense locked down along the perimeter to keep VCU at bay until time expired. GW is riding their best conference record since the 2016-17 season, powered by their 3-point game with a .348 percentage from long range compared to last year’s .271 clip.
The Colonials shot 47.3 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from beyond the arc against VCU, well above their season marks of 40.1 percent and 34.8 percent, respectively.
Graduate student guard Mia Lakstigala led the scoring for the Colonials, recording 21 points and six rebounds by aggressively attacking the basket and disrupting the rhythm of the Rams’ defense. Freshman guard Nya Robertson bolstered the Colonials’ offense after coming off the bench, notching 16 points, five rebounds and two assists off the bench for the team.
“Yeah, she’s a spark,” McCombs said of Robertson. “She has a nose for scoring. I think she really loves to put the ball in the basket. She’s got great confidence in doing so. We try to put her in positions to be successful.”
The Colonials are tied for sixth place in the Atlantic 10 Conference, three games behind University of Rhode Island, who leads the conference with a 7-0 record.
The Rams got off to a hot start with three consecutive shots from the field to push them ahead to an early 6-0 lead. Junior guard Asjah Inniss responded with a shot from beyond the arc, kickstarting an 8-2 run that the Colonials would ride to tie the game 12-12.
With one minute left in the first quarter, Lakstigala nailed a jumper, which Robertson followed up with a 3-pointer to give the Colonials a 19-14 lead.
A shot from deep range by Nya Robertson opened up the second quarter, and VCU responded with two free-throws from junior guard Sarah Te-Biasu. GW responded with a 9-0 run to widen their lead to 33-16 with just under four minutes remaining. VCU redshirt sophomore guard Grace Hutson hit a 3-pointer jumper, and senior guard Essence Brown responded with a 3-pointer of her own on GW’s next possession.
The Colonials finished the first half on top, 39-21. Mia Lakstigala and Nya Robertson led the way with 21 and 16 points, respectively. In the second quarter, the Colonials outscored the Rams 20-7, keeping VCU quiet by way of man-to-man defense.
Hutson got the Rams going out of the gate of the second half with a 3-pointer and a jumper on VCU’s first two possessions. Lakstigala responded with a deep ball of her own, extending the Colonials’ lead to 42-30.
The Rams went on a 7-2 run and were able to close the gap to 44-37 with just under 4 minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Colonials continued their dominance for the rest of the quarter, leading 53-42 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Rams continued to chip away in the fourth quarter, stringing together a series of defensive stops and closing their deficit to four points with four minutes remaining in the game.
The two teams went scoreless for the next two and a half minutes until trading shots from the field. With less than a minute remaining, VCU’s Anisja Harris attempted a 3-point shot that would cut the score to 61-57, but a miss gave way to a Colonials rebound.
Brown made a layup with 25 seconds left in the game, pushing the Colonials lead to six points and allowing GW to escape with a decisive win.
“I’m just really excited we were able to pull off the win,” Lakstigala said. “Like, Essence said, it’s a team effort. We all played so well together, and I think that just shows how much growth we have. And we’re still just getting better and better each game.”
GW held Te-Biasu to a VCU-leading 15 points, alongside six rebounds and four assists. Te-Biasu has averaged 16.3 points per game while shooting at a .417 clip on the season.
“We just emphasized all week to really guard her and take pride in our one-on-one defense,” Essence Brown said of Te-Biasu. “And that’s something that I take pride in, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my team being in the gaps. We were really communicating with each other, and I think it was like a team effort to hold her below her average and did really well.”
This article appeared in the January 26, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.