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Your Guide to GW sports

Freshman center Collin Smith scored a last-second game-winner Saturday to put GW over USF, 68-87. Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Freshman center Collin Smith hit a last-second, game-winning three Saturday to put GW over USF, 68-87. Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Down two points with under a minute to play Saturday afternoon, the Colonials were in desperate need of a stop – a tall order for a team that conceded a season-high 53.7 percent shooting clip to its opponent on the day.

Freshman Collin Smith got the next best thing, fouling USF forward Luis Santos, who missed both of his free-throw attempts. GW took the ball up and called a timeout with 26 seconds remaining.

The team’s final possession, however, did not go as planned: freshman forward Arnaldo Toro’s pass to graduate student Tyler Cavanaugh was tipped but then recovered, and eventually found the hands of Smith at the top of the key with three seconds left.

The 6-foot-10-inch center heaved up a three-ball that banked off the glass and in, handing men’s basketball (5-3) an electrifying, 68-67 comeback victory at the Smith Center.

We tried to get the ball to our best player, Tyler Cavanaugh, and the play broke down…So when [USF] went to go double Matt [Hart], I got the ball back and was like ‘well, here we go,'” Smith said. “I shot it, just using my instincts, tried not to hesitate and it went in.” 

In addition to his late game heroics, Smith had a career day with a team-high 22 points and 4 steals while adding 8 rebounds. The big-time performance, followed closely by Cavanaugh’s 16 points and 5 rebounds, was sorely needed as GW was without junior guard Yuta Watanabe and graduate student guard Patrick Steeves, both sidelined by injury.

“[This is a] resilient group of guys,” interim head coach Maurice Joseph said. “We are making some young mistakes, I’m making some young mistakes coaching-wise. Tyler Cavanaugh had foul trouble in the first half, we got injuries, you can make all the excuses in the world but I am proud of our guys for how resilient they have been.”

Smith scored a career-high 22 points and added a game-high 4 steals in the one-point decision. Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Smith scored a career-high 22 points and added a game-high 4 steals in the one-point decision. Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Despite the strong finish, defensive stops were scarce for GW all afternoon. The visitors marched to a 19-9 lead to open the contest, by making eight of their first nine field goal attempts against GW’s permeable 2-3 zone defense.

Exploiting GW’s lack of size down low in the absence of Watanabe and Steeves, the Bulls (4-3) scored 20 points in the paint and outrebounded  the Colonials 13-10 during the first half, in addition to going 5-for-10 from deep and 62.5 percent from the field.

A number of hustle plays and steals from Smith sparked an offensive surge midway through the frame that helped GW close the gap to 21-18.

Minutes later, the Colonials lost some of that momentum when a post-whistle scuffle between Cavanaugh and USF’s Geno Thorpe resulted in double technical fouls and sent GW’s star to the bench for the remainder of the half.

Both teams then traded double-digit runs to close out the first period as GW switched to a man-to-man defense.

“I was happy with our man-to-man…We are going to continue to switch up some defenses depending on matchups and depending on scouts and personnel of the other team,” Joseph said. “We tried to do that today, the zones didn’t work out the way we wanted it to or expected it to and that is going to happen.”

Freshman guard Jair Bolden cut the Colonials’ deficit back down to three points (35-32) heading into halftime with a nearly half-court buzzer beater.

Bolden would finish with a career-high six points and three assists, guiding the bench alongside redshirt senior guard Matt Hart who scored seven of the reserves’ 14 total points.

[Bolden and Smith] grew up today…I’ve been working them, I’ve been forcing them to grow up faster than it is fair of them to expect, but it is the hand that we were dealt,” Joseph said. “To end the [first] half with a buzzer beater and to end the game with that shot from two freshmen, go figure.” 

Both teams battled back-and-forth to maintain the lead in the early going of the second half with Cavanaugh back on the floor.

Another solid outing from starting freshman forward Arnaldo Toro (8p) was also an important contribution GW needed. The first-year big led the Colonials with nine boards – six coming in the second half – as the home team fought back to finish the contest with a 33-32 edge on the glass.

A 7-0 USF run spurred by star sophomore guard Jahmal McMurray (16p) put GW back in a 57-50 hole. The Colonials regrouped after a timeout and responded with a run, and stops, of their own. Crucial buckets from Cavanaugh, Hart, Smith and Bolden put the game back within reach.

The Colonials then did what they do best, and got to the free throw line. Down 65-60, Cavanaugh would go 3-for-5 and Smith a 2-for-2 from the charity stripe down the stretch. On the day, the team shot 17-for-27 at the line to USF’s 2-for-4.

“I am proud of our guys, I am proud of the way we have been fighting back in these close games and hopefully we can continue to grow,” Joseph said. “My message has been win or lose, we are going to go to work, we are going to continue to grow. Today, we took another step forward.”

GW takes on Florida State (6-1) at 4 p.m. Sunday as part of the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center. Joseph said he is unsure whether Steeves will be available against the Seminoles, and a team official said the forward’s injury is undisclosed.

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Senior guard Hannah Schaible led a second-half comeback against VCU Friday with a team-best 18 points. Hatchet Photographer | Jack Borowiak

Senior guard Hannah Schaible led a second-half comeback against VCU Friday with a team-best 18 points. Hatchet Photographer | Jack Borowiak

This post was written Hatchet reporter Barbara Alberts. 

Updated: Dec. 3, 2016 at 11:26 a.m.

After shooting only 23.5 percent from the field going into halftime, women’s basketball (6-2, 1-0 A-10) roared back against the VCU Rams (4-4, 0-1 A-10) to capture its first Atlantic 10 conference win of the season.

A 32-point third quarter helped GW overcome a nine-point halftime deficit, and secure the 81-67 victory at home Friday night.

“I’m excited to get our first Atlantic 10 win,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said.  “[The game] was an excellent display of team basketball. I couldn’t be more proud…it says a lot about who we are this year, what this team really cares about.”

The Colonials ended the night with a season-high 32 made field goals and 25 assists in the contest, with multiple players bringing energy to the court in the second half.

Senior guard Hannah Schaible had a stand-out game, leading the team with 18 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds, and graduate transfer Lexi Martins posted her first career double-double for the Colonials off the bench with 11 points and 11 boards.

However, it was an uphill battle for the Colonials in the first half.  

The Rams were red-hot in the opening quarter, shooting 61 percent from the field and 3-for-3 from beyond the arc to capture a 25-19 lead.

VCU senior guard Keira Robinson drove the Rams’ offense in the first frame, picking up seven points and along with redshirt senior guard Galaisha Goodhope’s five points and two assists.

The Colonials’ offense found a few points in the first quarter from fast breaks, but for the most part looked flat.

“I thought VCU came out tough and made things really hard for us in the beginning of the game,” Rizzotti said. ““I felt like we were just very stagnant on offense so we were doing quick-hit plays, trying to get certain guys shots.” 

GW went just 23.5 percent from field in the second quarter and a disappointing 1-for-8 from deep across the first half. 

Schaible picked up six points in the second quarter to keep the Colonials within reach, but VCU outscored GW 11-8 in the period to pull ahead 36-37 heading into halftime. The Rams were also able to outrebound GW 26-15 in the first half. 

“We talked a lot at halftime about how we had to be more determined on the boards and making sure that things go our way,” Rizzotti said.

The second half was a whole new game for the Colonials.  The home team came out with forceful a 15-8 offensive run to gain some momentum. 

An aggressive drive to the basket in by Cummings early in the third quarter resulted in two points to make it a one possession game with the Rams leading 40-37.

After scoring only six points in the first half, Schaible put up eight more points, five assists and six rebounds in the third quarter alone.

“I think Hannah Schaible might be the most competitive player I’ve ever coached,” Rizzotti said. “The kid literally refuses to lose.”

Schaible continued to drive the offense, with three steals helping the Colonials pick up 10 second chance points in the quarter.

Graduate transfer Lexi Martins stepped up big for the Colonials as well, when foul trouble forced senior forward Caira Washington to the bench in the middle of the third period.

Martins picked up 10 points and 5 rebounds for GW, crashing the glass with confidence on the backcourt after grabbing zero defensive rebounds in the first half.

“I went out there trying to play with short-term memory of the first half where I struggled a little bit,” Martins said.  “I tried to be aggressive and get on the boards.”

In the third quarter alone, the Colonials dropped 32 points and shot an impressive 60 percent from the field.

“In the third quarter we opened the floor up and reversed the ball multiple times,” Rizzotti said. “We got VCU’s defense to move, so it was a lot harder for them to double on the post.”

After a struggling from the field in the first half, sophomore guard Mei-Lyn Bautista hit a buzzer-beating three to close the quarter with a 59-49 Colonials’ lead.

The fourth quarter was merely a continuation of the Colonials’ determined comeback.

Junior forward Kelli Prange opened the final quarter by dropping eight points to help extend the Colonials’ lead to 20, while the visitors were held to just 26.7 percent shooting from the field. 

The Colonials ended the night with 40 points in the paint, 20 points from the bench and a double-digit league victory.

“What I love about this group is they never seem to get rattled,” Rizzotti said. 

The Colonials continue their homestand Sunday when they face Illinois at noon.

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Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 8:30 p.m.

Preview: Women’s basketball vs. VCU

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Barbara Alberts.

What: Women’s basketball (5-2) vs. VCU (4-3)

Where: Charles E. Smith Center, Washington D.C.

When: Friday, Dec. 2 at 7.p.m.

After a strong showing at the Gulf Coast Showcase last week, the Colonials return to the Smith Center for their first Atlantic 10 Conference game of the season.  

GW, the best defensive rebounding team in the A-10, goes head-to-head with the Rams, which boasts the second-most offensive rebounds in the league. The Colonials went 1-1 in their two games against VCU last season, including a 72-58 victory that saw them advance to the 2016 A-10 Championship game. 

With the Colonials picked to finish fourth in the A-10 Preseason Poll and the Rams picked fifth, Friday night’s game should be tightly-contested.

The Case for the Colonials:

The Colonials went 2-1 last week in Estero Fla., falling only to then-No.11/18 Syracuse 71-74 despite overcoming a 20-point deficit in a second-half comeback.  

In the tournament, the Colonials’ offense showed improvement with an average of three players per game scoring in the double-figures. So far this season, only one Ram is averaging double-digit scoring numbers per game.

GW enters the contest with the best scoring offense in the A-10 and second-best field goal percentage. Senior forward Caira Washington currently sits atop the conference with the best field goal percentage, while GW is shooting 42.6 percent from the field overall. The team, averaging 37 points in the paint per game in their last three games, will be a well-rounded force to be reckoned with for the Rams on Friday.

The Colonials should look to force the Rams to shoot threes and use their height advantage under the glass to help maximize their time of possession.  VCU ranks last in the league in made-threes this season in, averaging only 2.3 per game.  With the Colonials grabbing an average of 32.1 defensive rebounds per game, missed threes by the Rams should turn into more scoring opportunities for GW.

Case for the Rams:

The Rams are coming off a tough loss Wednesday, barely falling to Iona 57-59.  VCU went 2-0 at the San Juan Shootout last Thursday and Friday, however, where they bested Villanova 68-66.

Steals and a good turnover margin are some of the Rams’ greatest strengths.  VCU averages 7.6 takeaways per game and leads the A-10 in turnover margin.  Senior guard Keira Robinson leads the league with 18 steals this season. With GW averaging 17.4 turnovers a game, expect the Rams to capitalize on any mishandling of the ball. 

The Rams have a few sharpshooters in their arsenal the Colonials will need to keep an eye on. Robinson is the Rams’ leading scorer, averaging of 13.0 points per game. Sophomore guard Bria Gibson has the second best field goal percentage in the A-10 behind Washington.

If there’s one thing the Rams can exploit in GW’s offense it’s free throws. Look for VCU to be strategic with the shooting fouls they commit and take advantage of missed opportunities from the stripe by a Colonials’ team that ranks 12th in the A-10 in free-throw percentage.

VCU is also the second-best offensive rebounding team in the conference, averaging 16.1 offensive boards a game.  Offensive rebounding has helped the Rams score second-chance points this season and, with weak field-goal shooting, they will have to fight it out under the glass  if they want to keep the game competitive.

Bottom Line:

Friday’s contest will be a battle, especially on the glass, but GW will likely come away with its first league win if its surging offense can show up for a third straight game. 

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Riding a three game losing streak, men’s basketball traveled to Cambridge, Mass. to take on Harvard for its first true road game of the season Tuesday night.

Despite missing their second-leading scorer in junior forward Yuta Watanabe – out of the line up with a calf injury – the Colonials (4-3) came away with a 77–74 victory over the Crimson (1-4).

Graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh finished with a team-high 20 points and added seven rebounds, while redshirt junior guard Jaren Sina put up a 19-point performance – a career-high at GW – on 12-of-12 shooting from the line.

“Jaren and Tyler did a great job leading,” interim head coach Maurice Joseph said. “Obviously playing without Yuta is going to hurt us. Our guys are going to have to look to contribute and fill the gaps, fill that void by committee and I think we did that tonight. I am proud of our guys and how we battled.”

The young GW frontcourt had another strong showing in the three-point win. Freshman forward Arnaldo Toro, who got the start Tuesday alongside Cavanaugh, Sina, sophomore guard Jordan Roland and freshman center Collin Smith, contributed a game-high 10 rebounds. He and freshman forward Kevin Marfo combined for 17 points and held the Crimson to 24 points in the paint, compared to 34 against Penn State. Sophomore forward Collin Goss also posted a career-high five points.

The GW bigs, in general, had a good day on the offensive glass. The Colonials grabbed 15 offensive boards which led to a sizeable 12-point advantage in second-chance points.

The Colonials, who usually deploy a man-to-man defense, jumped into a two-three zone to start the game and stayed in it for the majority of the contest.

“I think we had some really good moments in [the 2-3 zone], Joseph said. “I thought that we did a good job for the most part, we still have to get back to the film.”

Harvard got on the board early, taking a 13–7 lead after scoring on five of six consecutive possessions. The Crimson were able to hold on to the lead for more than nine minutes, but GW was continuously chipping away and entered the locker room at halftime with a 37–33 advantage.

Sina and Cavanaugh got the offense rolling in the second half. GW started the frame with a 9-0 run and appeared to be in complete command.

Trailing by 13 with 16:43 on the clock, Harvard called a timeout and turned the game around. The Crimson offense turned up the heat and went on a 25-12 run capped by a shot from behind the arc from freshman guard Bryce Aiken, who co-led his team with 17 points along with first-year forward Seth Towns.

GW only made one more field goal in the game, but was able to pull out the four-point victory by finishing 15-for-18 from the line in the final five minutes.

“We are slowly but surely starting to mature. We are still a very young team, we made some very young mistakes today. I made some coaching mistakes today,” Joseph said. “Overall we all have to get better and we all have to do it collectively. That’s what I have been preaching and the fact that we withstood that run was impressive because at any level it is tough to get wins on the road.”

Next up, the Colonials host USF on Saturday at 2 p.m. before taking on Florida State at the Verizon Center Sunday in the BB&T Classic.

Watanabe – who is averaging 13.4 points and 5.2 rebounds – will likely be out for both games. Joseph said the forward’s timetable to return is “about three weeks.”

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Agam Mittal. 

Playing in its third game in three days, women’s basketball (5-2) received a huge lift from its bench to defeat Western Kentucky (3-3), 68–49, in the fifth-place game of the Gulf Coast Showcase Sunday.

“I feel good about our performance this weekend. Obviously there’s always going to be that thought in the back of our minds that we’d rather be playing for a championship or third place,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “But at least in the aftermath of losing a tough game, our mindset was right about coming back and finishing the best that we can.”

After handling Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday, the Colonials faced a tougher test in a Western Kentucky team that earned three votes in the AP Top 25 Poll and defeated then-No. 23 Indiana earlier this season.

However, behind 29 bench points and scoring from 10 different Colonials, GW led wire-to-wire against the Lady Toppers – whose starters played heavy minutes in overtime in their previous game.

“Being deep is always helpful – whether it’s guys being tired or not playing well, you always want to have confident players coming into the game off the bench,” Rizzotti said. “The bench’s performance is going to be really important for the success of GW women’s basketball.  Some of these young guys are our future – so it’s nice to see them hit their stride.”

Like they did on Saturday, the Colonials got off to a fast start. Their defense limited the Lady Toppers to 23 percent shooting from the field in the first quarter, while forcing three turnovers. GW led by as many as 12 in the period and held a 16–10 advantage heading into the second quarter.  

Sophomore guard Mei-Lyn Bautista, who started for the second consecutive game, ran the offense smoothly and effectively, playing with pace and finding open looks for her teammates. After dishing out four assists on Saturday, Bautista, a 2015-2016 Atlantic 10 All-Rookie selection, had five dimes on Sunday afternoon.  

“Starting or not, my role when I come in is to bring some energy, be a leader, make sure all my guys are in the right spot, and make my teammates better by feeding them the ball,” Bautista said. “The last two games, I stepped up when Coach Rizzotti told me I’d be in the lineup, and I did the exact same that I’d do if I wasn’t starting.”

Junior guard Camila Tapias hit two threes in the second quarter to spur GW to an early 12–0 run before the media timeout. The Colonials held WKU scoreless through the first 3:34 of the second quarter to extend the lead to 28–10, and did not allow a field goal until the final three minutes of the half.

GW held a 32–18 lead at halftime behind a balanced offense led by eight points and four rebounds from senior center Caira Washington. Junior guard Brianna Cummings, coming off of a 16-point performance against FGCU, continued her aggressive play, grabbing four offensive rebounds in the first half and reaching the line twice.

The Colonials bench was key in extending the lead in a back-and-forth third quarter, during which GW shot 52.9 percent. Junior guard Mia Farmer, who had not scored yet this season, provided a spark off the bench, collecting seven points in only six minutes, including a pretty reverse layup and a three-pointer to beat the third quarter buzzer to give the Colonials a 20-point lead.

“Mia always comes in and plays her hardest – she always brings energy and toughness, she’s very strong, and she plays great defense,” Bautista said. “She knocked down big shots, and had a nice reverse layup.  A lot of guys on our team know that no matter how many minutes they get, it’s always a good opportunity to just play their game and not think about it.”

GW kept their foot on the pedal entering the final period. After extending the lead to 25 with 5:28 to go, Rizzotti emptied her bench to give her starters a much-needed breather.

Washington, who had a near double-double with 13 points and 9 rebounds, said she was pleased with her team’s performance after two consecutive wins.

“Overall we’ve performed very well for a three game stretch, we did well and we fought hard, and we played high-intensity basketball, so I’m proud of us,” Washington said. “We are really looking to get better, and being a better team than we are now at the end of the season.”

Up next, the Colonials will face A-10 rival VCU on Friday at the Smith Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

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Updated: Nov. 26, 2016 at 9:39 p.m.

Over the past few years, men’s basketball has made the Smith Center its sanctuary. The Colonials came into the game with 27 consecutive non-conference victories and wins in 45 of their last 51 home matchups.

But on Friday night, that home court advantage wasn’t enough. The Colonials (3-3) dropped their third consecutive game to Penn State (4-3), 74–68, after leading by 10 points in the first half.

“We have got to look at the film, come back and really get better from this,” interim head coach Maurice Joseph said. “All of our games, win or lose, are going to be learning experiences because we need to continue to get better from them.”

Graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh led GW with 15 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He extends his streak of double digit scoring performances to 44 after sitting the majority of the first half and scoring no baskets in the frame due to foul trouble.

The Colonials were missing junior guard Yuta Watanabe, who did not suit up after injuring his lower leg in practice. His absence removed GW’s best perimeter defender from the lineup and forced Joseph to look to his bench.

The momentum of the game was then largely defined by how the Colonials stacked up on their side of the floor. When GW’s defense was clicking, they built up a lead in a hurry. But, in the second half, the Nittany Lions broke through and shot 50 percent from the floor and scored more than double their first half total.

Penn State out-rebounded GW, 39-35, on the night and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds to the Colonials’ seven.

“We pride ourselves on rebounding, that’s one of things we hang our hats on,” Joseph said. “Getting out-rebounding is disappointing because, one, they are not a great rebounding team and, two, we have all that depth in our frontcourt.”

After struggling with turnover problems earlier in the season, redshirt junior guard Jaren Sina didn’t have any giveaways and scored 13 points in 37 minutes of play. Despite the solid performance, Sina said he is disappointed in his below average two assists.

“I still have got to put guys in better position,” Sina said. “As a point guard I have got to make it easier for guys and I don’t think I did that today. So I have got to watch some film and just keep working on that and keep getting better.”

Right off the tip, the Nittany Lions found themselves with a 4–0 lead in the opening minute and remained hot at the beginning of the game. Before the second media timeout, GW picked up six turnovers and was unable to build any runs.

Penn State built an 18–11 lead with just over half of the first frame remaining. The Nittany Lions were shooting 56.3 percent and appeared to be in command of the game.

For the remainder of the first half, it looked like two completely different teams started playing. The Colonials allowed only two field goals in the final 10 minutes, taking their first lead of the game by going on a 21-5 run and entering halftime ahead, 32–23.

Both sides traded baskets to start the second half, but it was clear that the Nittany Lions captured the momentum.

Penn State made a run to take a 10-point advantage, 52–42, with just under a quarter of the game left to play. During this period, GW’s defense broke down and struggled to stop easy shots.

The Colonials did not give up. In less than three minutes, Cavanaugh and freshman forward Collin Smith had converted free throws and Sina hit down a wide-open three to bring the contest within one.

That was as close as the game would get, as the Nittany Lions were able to close out the night by hitting 19 of 22 free throws and holding onto the ball down the stretch.

“We have to learn that we have to continue to work towards putting 40 minutes of basketball together,” Joseph said. “We have to slow down, we have to evaluate things and just make the right play or make the easy play. If we can do that, we will be fine.”

GW returns to action on Tuesday, where they will travel to Harvard to take on graduate student guard Patrick Steeves’ former squad. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Agam Mittal. 

On her 22nd birthday, senior guard Hannah Schaible scored a career-high 20 points to lead women’s basketball to a 76-47 rout of Florida Gulf Coast in the consolation semifinal game of the Gulf Coast Showcase.

Schaible also added seven rebounds and shot an efficient 8-for-12 from the field, converting a number of tough finishes while drawing contact. Junior guard Brianna Cummings put up    a season-high 16 points and five rebounds, while senior center Caira Washington pitched in 14 points and five rebounds in only 15 minutes of action.

“I was really happy with the game today –  it was not easy to have to turnaround after finishing at almost 10 p.m. to play at 1:30, but our guys were focused and really hungry,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “They wanted to redeem themselves after losing yesterday so it was great to see how they bounced back and  played together and got the win today.”

Rizzotti made an adjustment in the starting lineup for the first time this season, replacing point guard Camila Tapias with sophomore combo guard Mei-Lyn Bautista. Although Bautista was held scoreless on only two shot attempts, she led the team in assists with four dimes.

After the game, Rizzotti acknowledged Bautista’s high intensity on the court, noting her skills as a vocal leader on the court.

“I really like her energy, she’s one of those guys that actually wants to be vocal and lead, and I think that’s what some of our older guys need,” Rizzotti said. “I think she’s improved over the last month and a half and she’s ready for that jump to the starting lineup. She came out and played great defense today on FGCU’s best shooter and she really got the offense flowing.”

The Colonials started strong, forcing five FGCU turnovers in the first quarter and holding the Eagles to 4-for-14 shooting from the field. Cummings was aggressive from the start, looking for her shot and scoring eight early points to give the Colonials a 24-10 lead after the first quarter.

Cummings stayed hot in the second period, adding another six points, including four from the free throw line. GW was sharp from the charity stripe in the first half, hitting 9-of-11 free throws.

“Coming off a loss to Syracuse, I felt that I wasn’t really that aggressive in the game, and I wasn’t playing to my strengths,” Cummings said. “Today I focused on being aggressive, getting to the rim, and drawing some fouls to help the team.”

Graduate student forward Lexi Martins also provided quality minutes off the bench, chipping in with five points, five rebounds, and two steals in the first half, allowing Washington to take a breather and play limited minutes in the first half. GW held a 17 point advantage going into the locker room, leading 46-29.

Schaible carried the Colonials with six early points in the third quarter to help GW open the half on a 10-1 run. After a brief two-minute GW scoring drought that included three turnovers and a 6-0 FGCU run, Bautista sparked the offense once again as the Colonials closed the quarter with a 28 point advantage, 65-37. They allowed the Eagles to score only one basket in the period.

“I’m happy that we played so well as a team and that I was able to get some buckets today,” Schaible said. “We had to focus on working on our defense, because Coach [Rizzotti] wants us to be a great defensive team all season long, so that’s something we want to constantly get better at, limiting the other team as much as possible.”

Nursing a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter, Rizzotti was able to give valuable minutes to her backups, with freshmen Harper Birdsong and Kendall Bresee, and junior Mia Farmer all getting playing time.

“It’s very important to get our backups minutes, because down the line you never know what’s going to happen,” Cummings said. “We need our backups to come in and keep pushing and let the tempo not drop, and they did an amazing job at scoring, rebounding, and just helping us out really and giving us a rest.”

The Colonials will face Western Kentucky tomorrow in the fifth-place game. They will tip off at 1:30 p.m. at Germain Arena.

“Tomorrow we face a really tough Western Kentucky squad that already has beaten Indiana this year and played DePaul tough on Friday, so it doesn’t get any easier for us,” Rizzotti said. “But it’s another great opportunity for us to get better and play against another really high level mid-major program and see where we are at this point in the season, and I think our girls will definitely be ready.”

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Agam Mittal.

In its first game against a nationally ranked opponent this season, women’s basketball (3-2) was unable to complete a furious comeback against No. 11/18 Syracuse (4-1), losing 74-71 on the opening night of the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fl.

The Colonials nearly overcame a 20-point first-half deficit, battling back to cut the lead to two in the fourth quarter.

However, Syracuse, the 2016 NCAA National Championship runner-up, held its own on the defensive end, drawing an offensive foul call on senior guard Hannah Schaible and forcing a missed three-pointer at the final buzzer by junior forward Kelli Prange.

“I was very proud of their effort and their focus in the second half,” first-year head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “It would’ve been easy to just kind of give up and think about what’s next, but they showed toughness and perseverance. That’s a really good sign early in the season, that they have that in them.”

The Colonials held their own in the first quarter, holding the Orange to 4-for-18 shooting from the field. GW raced out to a 19-17 lead behind 7-0 and 8-0 runs, despite turning the ball over seven times against Syracuse’s 2-3 trap defense and stingy full-court press.

After an efficient first quarter, GW struggled to find their rhythm in the second quarter, shooting only 3-for-17 from the field and committing six more turnovers. Meanwhile, the Orange got several fast-break opportunities off of four second-quarter steals. Defensively, the Colonials struggled to defend Syracuse’s star guard duo of Alexis Peterson and Brittney Sykes.

Despite her struggles from the field, Peterson dished out five first-half assists, running the offense smoothly and finding open looks for redshirt senior guard Brittney Sykes. Sykes, coming off a 21-point game, scored 15 first-half points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field. The senior duo dominated throughout the game; their combined 29 first-half points were more than the Colonials scored in the first half.

Senior center Caira Washington was one of the lone bright spots for the Colonials in the half, with seven points and eight rebounds. 13 first-half turnovers led to 16 points off turnovers for the Orange.

Coming out of the locker room trailing 43-26, the Colonials played with better defensive intensity in the third quarter. Although they shot 67 percent from the field in the third quarter, Syracuse’s full-court press continued to bother them, as GW turned the ball over three more times in the period.

“At halftime, we talked about taking better care of the ball,” Washington said. “We just needed to calm down, stay composed, and take care of the ball. I’m proud, we played well and we played hard to the very end.”

The Colonials were unable to overcome 23 total turnovers, an area which has been an issue for GW through the first five games of the season.

“We talked a lot about turnovers heading in, and that we would have to be a disciplined and tough about how we handle pressure,” Rizzotti said. “It’s one of those scenarios where hopefully an early season game against Syracuse helps us against a team later in the season that is similar in trying to turn us over.”

Heading into the fourth quarter down by 11, GW staged a furious comeback thanks to a dominant performance on the glass. Offensive rebounding allowed the Colonials to gain a 21-11 advantage in second chance points, and the Colonials clawed back behind scrappy, balanced play.

Senior center Caira Washington was a force in the paint, posting her second consecutive double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds to go along with 3 assists and 2 blocks.

“I thought we did okay – I thought we got in our position, and played our roles,” Washington said.  We could’ve played a little better defensively, in terms of knowing our personnel and stopping post players, but overall we played well and we played hard to the very end.”

Averaging only 3.0 points per game, senior guard Shannon Cranshaw provided a huge lift off the bench, scoring all 11 of her points in the second half. She sunk three three-pointers and netted a clutch fast-break layup with 29 seconds left to make it a three point game, 71-68.

After an offensive foul call on Schaible with ten seconds remaining gave the ball back to the Orange, Peterson hit one of two shots from the free throw line, leaving the door open for the Colonials. Coming out of a timeout down 74-71, junior forward Kelli Prange got a good look at the basket for a potential game-tying three-pointer but missed wide right, leaving the GW comeback short.

“We knew that they were coming off a loss at Drexel, so we knew they were going to give it their all today,” Prange said. “We’re excited to learn from this, and it was great to play against one of the bigger opponents that we potentially might see down in the long run, in March.”

GW will face Florida Gulf Coast tomorrow in their second game of the three game tournament at 1:30 p.m. at Germain Arena.

“It’s definitely hard to come back with only a couple hours of prep for it, but our coaching staff is very good about that, our scouts are working hard,” Prange said. “We’ll get back to it tomorrow, learn what [FGCU] does, what their tendencies are, to come out and hopefully get the win tomorrow.”

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Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 2:06 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball vs. Penn State

Junior guard Yuta Watanabe drives against a UAPB defender earlier this season. After two road losses, Watanabe and the Colonials return home Saturday to take on Penn State. Madeleine Cook | Hatchet Photographer

Junior guard Yuta Watanabe drives against a UAPB defender earlier this season. After two road losses, Watanabe and the Colonials return home Saturday to take on Penn State. Madeleine Cook | Hatchet Photographer

What: Men’s basketball (3-2) vs. Penn State (3-3)

Where: Charles E. Smith Center, Washington D.C.

When: Saturday, Nov. 26 at 4 p.m.

After dropping their first two games of the season in Kansas City earlier this week, the Colonials return to Foggy Bottom to host the Nittany Lions.

GW will attempt to snap its losing streak and pick up its first win of 2016-2017 against a power conference team.

Last season when these two teams met, the Colonials got the better of Penn State at home. GW won 76–66 – behind a double-double from graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh – as part of its 10-1 start to the regular season.

Here is what to expect from the game:

Case for the Colonials:

Returning to D.C, is likely the best thing that GW can do after two tightly contested losses. Although students are on Thanksgiving break, the Colonials are 3-0 at home this season and 45-6 at the Smith Center since the beginning of the 2013-2014 season.

GW and Penn State have had similar seasons thus far. They each lost two games in their early season tournament to teams that will be competing for a spot in the NCAA tournament and both took down teams that they were favored against. The difference is that the Penn State lost its first game of the season, upset by Albany 87–81.

The Colonials’ top-two scorers, Cavanaugh and junior guard Yuta Watanabe, have continued their offensive dominance lately. They have combined for 32.2 points and 14.2 rebounds per game, shooting 43 percent from the floor. Cavanaugh goes into the weekend ranked eighth in the Atlantic 10 in scoring.

Despite GW’s recent struggles, they still boast a deep and prominent frontcourt. Freshman forward Arnaldo Toro has come into his own as the season has progressed and the Colonials have 7.7 more total rebounds per game than the Nittany Lions.

Case for the Nittany Lions:

Momentum may be on Penn State’s side, coming off a victory against Colgate. In GW’s most recent game against UAB, they did not defend well. The Blazers shot 51.9 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from behind the arc on the way to their last seven-point win.

The Nittany Lions have a balanced lineup with the ability to score from anywhere on the floor. They have four starters who score between 12.0 and 14.0 points per game.

Juniors Shep Garner and Payton Banks, along with freshmen Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens will provide problems for a young GW team that has had problems defensively. The group of four also has the ability to space the floor, combining for 43 three-pointers on the season.

Bottom Line:

This matchup will be a good trial for each side. GW will be able to test its defense against a balanced, but not overpowering, offensive team. Penn State will try to pick up its second win against an A-10 opponent and further establish itself before conference play. It is possible that the home court dominance will be the difference for the Colonials, but expect another very close game.

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Photo courtesy of Blake Roberts

Junior guard Yuta Watanabe battles a UAB defender Tuesday night at the Sprint Center. Watanabe scored 18 points in GW’s 81-74 CBE Hall of Fame consolation game loss. Photo courtesy of Blake Roberts

Updated: Nov. 23 at 1:50 p.m.

KANSAS CITY, MO. — Another resilient effort by men’s basketball fell short Tuesday at the Sprint Center. 

Despite a rousing 13-0 second-half run, GW’s flat defensive showing allowed UAB to shoot a season-high 51.9 percent from the field on the night. 

That and 18 turnovers – with a team-high 5 coming from its point guard – hindered any chance GW had at a comeback in the game’s final minutes. The Blazers (3-2) would go on to win the CBE Hall of Fame Classic consolation match 81-74, good for a third-place finish in the tournament.

The Colonials, who entered the field undefeated, dropped both of their contests in Kansas City and now move to 3-2 on the season.

“We should be proud of how we fought but we have to understand that we can’t dig ourselves into this deep of a hole, with this good of a team and expect to win,” interim head coach Maurice Joseph said. “You expend all of that energy trying to claw your way back, and we did that and we did a really great job of that, but we were kind of gassed towards the end and couldn’t finish the job.”

Graduate student Tyler Cavanaugh’s play was a bright spot once again as the forward finished with a team-best 19 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for his third double-double of the year.

Junior guard Yuta Watanabe also had an impressive second-half with 14 points and 18 on the game, followed by redshirt junior guard Jaren Sina (16p) – the third Colonial to score in double-figures behind a 4-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc.

The Colonials also commanded the offensive boards 17-8 and went a much improved 14-for-16 from the free throw line, but none of it was enough to overcome a sloppy performance on their own end.

Defensive woes were apparent from the get-go as GW’s Conference USA opponent opened the game going 13-for-18 (72 percent) from the field, catapulting them to a 16-point lead a little more than halfway through the first half.

We started off slow. The energy level wasn’t great to start the game,” Sina said. “Coach Joseph works so hard putting great scouting reports together for us and we have to follow them. We’ve just got to keep executing…and especially young guys, we’ve got to lock in – and we will, and that’s going to be a big point of emphasis for the rest of the season.”

Ten first-half points from Cavanaugh and nine off the bench prevented the game from getting out of hand in the opening period, but a 53.6 percent UAB shooting clip, plus a 7-for-7 showing at the free-throw line contributed to a 39-29 Blazers’ lead at the break.

GW looked far better to start the second half, as a 7-0 run with a three-pointer and two free-throws Watanabe, plus a bucket down-low from Cavanaugh made it a one-possession game.

UAB’s top-three scorers, junior forwards Chris Cokley (19p), William Lee (19p) and senior guard Dirk Williams (15p) – all put up points in a subsequent Blazers run that put them back on top 53-41.

That’s when a Sina three-pointer sparked an inspired 13-0 run that saw big contributions from freshman forward Arnaldo Toro, who was a presence down-low snagging critical offensive rebounds.

The first-year big who split minutes with starting freshman center Collin Smith again Tuesday, finished with five rebounds and seven points – five which came during that stretch – and garnered praise from Joseph after the game.

The double-digit scoring spurt – assisted by UAB’s 11 second-half total turnovers – helped GW regain a brief one-point edge, but that’s big a lead as they would ever hold all night.

The Colonials would commit 10 second-half turnovers of their own, and 18 total to give the Blazers extra chances on GW’s end that they could not afford. A slightly stronger second-half GW defense was unable withstand a barrage of attacks down the stretch, costing them the game.

The Blazers would go on to shoot 54.5 percent from beyond the arc and 50 percent from the field in the final frame, and outscore GW 36-32 in the paint on the night.

Joseph said part of the blame rests on his shoulders.

“I have to do a better job getting our guys ready to play,” he said. “However I have to do that. Whether it’s playing time or if it’s a change in the lineups to figure out who’s willing to come out and guard with energy, we have to sit down as a staff and talk about that. But I’ll put that on me. If our energy level is low that’s my fault. We came out flat and I have to figure out how to change that.”

The Colonials return home Saturday to play Penn State. Tip-off at the Smith Center is slated for 4 p.m.

“We played two very good teams [this week],” Sina said. “We’ve got to get back and watch some film, keep moving forward and getting better.”

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