This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Daniel Wright.
Four minutes and 23 seconds into the Colonials match-up against No. 11 Rutgers (ESPN/USA Today) Friday evening, senior forward Tara Booker knocked down a jumper to give the women’s basketball team an early 8-7 lead.
The advantage lasted just 45 seconds.
After a back-and-forth start to play, the Scarlet Knights used an 8-0 scoring run to retake the lead, one they would not relinquish for the rest of the night. The Colonials (6-7) ultimately fell 75-54 to Rutgers, GW’s largest margin of defeat this season.
“They showed why they are ranked No. 11 in the country,” head coach Mike Bozeman said. “They played Rutgers basketball. We got away from what we wanted to do and got out of what we established as a positive for us.”
After a GW timeout, senior guard Tiana Meyers drained a three pointer to bring the Colonials within four points of the lead, but Rutgers continued to pull away. Over the final eight and a half minutes of the first half, the Colonials missed 10 of 11 shots from the field, as Rutgers used a 21-7 run to take a 42-23 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Rutgers came into the game with a stifling defense that ranks among the best in the country, limiting opponents to just 53.6 points per game. As the Colonials struggled to find a consistent offensive rhythm towards the end of the first half, shooting just 30.8 percent from the field, the Scarlet Knights used 14 GW turnovers en route to 14 points and shot an even 50 percent from the floor. Bozeman pointed to the turnovers as the key reason for the Colonials’ struggles early.
“The turnovers are what hurt us,” Bozeman said. “They were live ball turnovers, and that’s what hurt us most tonight.”
Rutgers continued to extend their lead into the second half, using a 10-0 run over a three minute stretch to halt any chance of a comeback by the Colonials. While GW shot a respectable 47.8 percent from the field in the second, the Scarlet Knights dominated the low post, scoring 36 of their 75 points in the paint, holding the Colonials to just 10. Rutgers also owned a 40-29 advantage on the boards, and managed 28 points off of 23 GW turnovers.
Playing without senior center Sara Mostafa, who has been sidelined since Dec. 11 with a broken hand, the Colonials missed their dominating low post presence against the commanding Scarlet Knights defensive front. But the rest of the roster stepped up to answer her absence, Bozeman said, pleased with the effort despite the defeat.
“It’s hard without [Mostafa] especially when we’ve done so much studying to tweak the offense around her in the post,” Bozeman said. “It took a few games to get used to playing without her, and I thought that was the best we’ve performed since we lost her. They’ve adapted to playing without a true center.”
While the Colonials were outscored by 19 points in the first half, the second half was much more competitive, GW outscored by just two points after the break.
Using four buckets from behind the arc, Booker added 14 of her team-high 18 points in the second half, grabbing five rebounds. Junior guard Danni Jackson dished out eight assists and posted 14 points, while Myers contributed 10 points. Despite the loss, Bozeman plans to use the positives from Friday’s game as the team gears up for the start of A-10 play in early January.
“I challenged the girls at halftime and I think they responded well from the half on, I just think we dug the hole too deep,” Bozeman said. “This showed us where we can build on some things. They’re number 11 for a reason. We played them tough in the second half, and that’s something to build on and it still gives us confidence that we can battle with those teams.”
Bozeman and the Colonials will host American Jan. 2 at 2 p.m. in the Smith Center.