Women’s basketball defeated Duquesne 58-52 Wednesday night at the Smith Center in a hard-fought defensive battle that kept the Dukes from taking advantage of the 3-point line.
The Colonials’ (15-8, 7-3 A-10) defense stepped up at the 3-point line allowing only one 3-pointer out of 29 attempts by the Dukes (14-9, 4-6 A-10), keeping their shooting percentage at just .034 from beyond the arc. GW held Duquesne to just 52 points, a 16 decrease in their season average of 69, with senior guard Mia Lakstigala notching eight rebounds that would translate into an impressive 4-for-6 beyond the arc to keep the Dukes’ offense dormant.
“And so it really came down to us defending today,” Coach McCombs said in the post-game press conference. “Defending the 3-point line, especially, that was a focus for us.”
Senior forward Mayowa Taiwo kicked off the Colonials scoring with a contested layup off the glass that led GW to jump out to a 10-2 lead with four minutes left in the first quarter after a pair of 3-pointers from Lakstigala and senior forward Faith Blethen.
A suffocating defense, particularly in the paint, aided the Colonials with Taiwo’s control of the glass leaving limited second-chance opportunities for the Dukes. In the final minute of the first quarter, Duquesne crawled back to just a two-point deficit with a 10-8 score.
Freshman guard Nya Robertson, who typically provides electric scoring off the bench, did not start with her usual success in shot selection, missing her first nine shot attempts, including six in the first period.
“We just talked about her shot selection, I think that was the biggest thing is, there’s easier shots that we know she can make in our flow of our offense,” McCombs said. “I thought she was taking a little, you know, higher degree of difficulty shot. And so just her learning the offense and understanding that, she’s going to get those shots, they’re going to come within the flow of the offense.”
After Duquesne momentarily took the lead midway through the second quarter, GW was able to bounce back, helped in large part by two 3-pointers by Lakstigala.
“I try to get a lot of shots up in my free time,” said Lakstigala. “So I think that really translates when the game time comes.”
With just under a minute remaining in the half and the Colonials up three points, Robertson was fouled driving for a layup. After missing the second shot, junior guard Taylor Webster grabbed the rebound, leading to a Robertson three to send the Colonials up 25-18 and end her shooting drought.
The third quarter continued at the same pace, with both team’s offenses failing to get rolling, but Taiwo was able to continue her rebounding prowess on the offensive glass. Pulling down 11 offensive boards.
After a quick 7-point shooting burst by Robertson, GW was able to establish a 39-32 lead as the quarter came to an end.
As the final quarter commenced, Taiwo committed a foul on Duquesne forward Amaya Hamilton, her fourth of the night. With the risk of losing her star player in a close game, McCombs relied on freshman reserve center Caia Loving, who brought down eight rebounds off the bench along with stout defensive play.
“Caia’s continuing to work in practice every day, her name was called, we’re really proud of her,” McCombs said. “She’s going to keep getting better for us. I thought she did a terrific job, grabbing some rebounds, and obviously just defending their post players inside.”
While GW was never able to truly pull away, their ferocious defense kept Duquesne at a comfortable distance, as Lakstigala, in addition to Robertson and senior guard Nya Lok were able to provide the Colonials with enough scoring to force the Dukes into fouling late.
With just over 20 seconds left, Lakstigala was able to sink two free throws to extend the lead to 54-46, diminishing any chance for a miracle Duquesne comeback.
After a few more rounds of GW free throws, the game ended as a Duquesne layup bounced off the glass and into the hands of none other than Mayowa Taiwo, her 16th total of the night.
“So just knowing like, in my limited time doing what I do best,” Taiwo explained of her rebounding success despite spending much of the second half in foul trouble.
Following the win, the Colonials are tied for third in the A-10, 2.5 games back of the A-10-undefeated Rhode Island Rams. With an impressive 7-3 conference record, GW stands a fair shot of qualification for the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
“I still think we have a long way to go,” McCombs said. “I love the journey that we’re on. I think we’re getting better. I think just continuing to have a humble and hungry mindset is really important at this time. So rather than focusing on March, I just want them to focus on getting some rest tomorrow, first and foremost.”
The Colonials take on George Mason in a rematch Sunday at noon at the Smith Center.
This article appeared in the February 2, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.