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Your Guide to GW sports

Graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh celebrates GW's 66-63 win at Temple Wednesday night after hitting a game-winning three. Ethan Stoler | Hatchet Photographer

Graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh celebrates GW’s 66-63 win at Temple Wednesday night after hitting a game-winning three. Ethan Stoler | Hatchet Photographer

Updated: Dec. 7, 2016 at 11:02 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — Coming off its worst game of the season, shooting just 22.6 percent in a 19-point loss to Florida State, men’s basketball hoped to rebound with a trip to Temple Wednesday night.

The Owls (6-3) entered the contest riding a five-game winning streak, garnered three votes in last week’s AP top-25 poll and had just defeated FSU two weeks prior.

GW (6-4) did not shy away from its formidable American Athletic Conference opponent, but instead shot a season-high 47.2 percent from the floor to earn a hard-fought, 66–63 road win behind a tenacious team effort.

“We really controlled tempo and pace, that’s something that we had that was a big key going into this game,” interim head coach Maurice Joseph said. “I’m really proud of our guys, the way we carried out the scouting report and the way we came in here against a hostile environment and got a really important win.”

The bounceback effort was not without another dramatic ending. Graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh knocked down a corner-three off a pass from sophomore guard Jordan Roland with only 7.8 seconds to play and one second left on the shot clock to break the tie and clinch the three-point win.

“[Roland] kicked it to me in the corner and I had no decision but to shoot,” Cavanaugh said.  “Normally when you don’t think, that’s when your shot normally goes in. I was lucky enough to be in that position. We let the lead slide but I’m happy we pulled it in the end.”

Sophomore guard Jordan Roland drives to the basket in GW's win against Temple. Roland finished with 14 points. Ethan Stoler | Hatchet Photographer

Sophomore guard Jordan Roland drives to the basket in GW’s win against Temple. Roland finished with 14 points. Ethan Stoler | Hatchet Photographer

Cavanaugh led GW in scoring on the night with 20 points and 4 assists. Roland also had a stellar night, hitting 6 of his 9 shots from the field and finishing with a career-high 14 points.

Playing the majority of the game with three forwards on the floor, the Colonials dominated the battle on the glass, collecting 37 boards compared to 23 for the Owls. Freshman big men Arnaldo Toro (9r) and Collin Smith (7r) led the way combining for 18 rebounds on the night.

The Colonials were also able to work the ball around the floor against Temple’s defense efficiently, collecting a season-high 18 assists on the night. Redshirt junior point guard Jaren Sina led the team with six assists.

“[Sina and I] were on the same page tonight, we were flowing, we were huge coming off the pick-and-roll making good decisions,” Cavanaugh said. “I think all-around I think everyone contributed and when we work inside very well and then work toward the outside, we’re tough to beat.”

The game was tight right from the opening minute. The two teams traded baskets before three-pointers from Cavanaugh and Sina gave the Colonials a seven-point lead six and a half minutes into the action.

GW held onto that lead for the remainder of the half, answering on offense each time the Owls were able to find a rhythm. A three from Roland and three points the old-fashioned way from Cavanaugh allowed the Colonials to extend the GW lead to 31–25 at halftime.

GW kicked off the second half with a 10-3 run in the first four minutes of the frame, grabbing its first double-digit advantage of the game and remaining in control.

The Colonials held on to that lead for the majority of the game behind an improved effort defensively. The Owls shot a solid 42.6 percent during the game, but were unable to compile many runs for most of the second half.  They finished with a total of only five offensive rebounds, limiting their second chance opportunities.

“I think we were just were a little bit more active [defensively],” Joseph said. “Watching the film, we saw that our hands were down when they shouldn’t have been, our feet weren’t moving when they should have been, our communication was simply not where it needed to be for the zone to be effective so we took a step forward in each of those aspects today and did a much better job.”

Trailing by nine with less than four minutes left, Temple still did not give up. Back-to-back three-pointers from redshirt senior guard Daniel Dingle with less than two minutes to play tied the game at 61 and sent the home crowd into a frenzy.

After Cavanaugh’s game-winning shot the Owls were able to get off a final three-point attempt with a chance to tie the game up. The shot missed as the clock hit zero.

The Colonials will return home on Saturday to host Howard (1-5) at the Smith Center. Tip off is scheduled for 4 p.m.

Junior guard Yuta Watanabe and graduate student Patrick Steeves, both injured, did not travel with the team Wednesday. The timetable for both players remains unclear.

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Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016 3:02 p.m.

Preview: Women’s basketball vs. American

This post was written Hatchet reporter Agam Mittal.

What: GW Women’s Basketball (7-2, 1-0 A-10) at American (2-5)

Where: Bender Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.

Looking for their fifth consecutive win, women’s basketball will make the short trip to Tenleytown to face crosstown rival American.

The case for the Colonials

Winners of four straight games, the Colonials have not lost since dropping a close game to then-No.11 Syracuse in the opening round of the Gulf Coast Showcase. Since then, they have outscored opponents by an average margin of 19.5 points, including victories over Atlantic 10 rival VCU and Big Ten opponent Illinois.

The Colonials are led by senior forward Caira Washington, who is averaging 12.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Washington, shooting 68.5 percent from the field, ranks first in the A-10 and third nationally in the category.

Backing up Washington, graduate student forward Lexi Martins has shined over her past two outings, averaging ten points and nine rebounds in just seventeen minutes of action off the bench. Her shot-blocking and size could cause problems for the Eagles in the paint, and her shooting prowess should help spread the floor.

In the backcourt, head coach Jennifer Rizzotti has found stability thanks to excellent play from senior Hannah Schaible and sophomore Mei-Lyn Bautista. The veteran leadership of Schaible has made her the “glue guy” early in the season, and the whole offense seems to run more smoothly when she is on the court.

The Colonials have not lost since inserting Bautista into the lineup on Nov. 26, in large part due to her court-vision and excellent ball-handling. Bautista is averaging 4.5 assists per game in her last four outings and has been a vocal leader on the court.

The case for the Eagles

The Eagles will look to close off a three-game home stretch with a win after a disappointing 48–34 home loss to William and Mary on Saturday in which the Eagles recorded a season-low in points.

They will also attempt to capitalize on their home-court advantage: Although the Colonials lead the all-time series 13-12, American has won 8 of 12 games against GW at home.

American is led by Emily Kinneston and Lauren Crisler, who are averaging 12.3 and 10.1 points per game, respectively. Kinneston, like Hannah Schaible for the Colonials, is a talented guard who can stuff the stat-sheet: she has tallied double-figures in all but one game this season. She also leads the team in assists (4.1 per game) and is second in rebounds (4.7 rpg).

Crisler, the team’s leading rebounder at 6.3 boards per game, will battle with Caira Washington inside. The Eagles best shot at winning the battle in the paint will be to get Washington in foul trouble and force the Colonials into tough shots while utilizing Crisler in the middle of the floor.

Despite their poor record, American leads the Patriot League with a .405 field-goal percentage and is limiting opponents to .357 shooting from the floor. 

The bottom line:

The Colonials have found their groove down the stretch of their non-conference schedule, and their surging offense, led by their strong post-play should overwhelm an AU team that has struggled mightily to stop teams in the paint so far this season.

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Graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh is guarded by two Florida State defenders in GW's loss on Sunday. Ethan Stoler | Hatchet Photographer

Graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh is guarded by two Florida State defenders in GW’s loss on Sunday. Ethan Stoler | Hatchet Photographer

Updated: Dec. 4, 2016 at 11:30 p.m.

One day after a thrilling homecourt victory over South Florida, men’s basketball suffered a different fate against a second Sunshine State squad Sunday.

GW (5-4) dropped its 2016 BB&T Classic game to Florida State (7-1), 67-48, down the road at the Verizon Center behind its most lackluster offensive performance of the season.

Any double-digit loss is disappointing,” interim head coach Maurice Joseph said. “We’re not going to make excuses, we got our butts kicked, now we have go to see how we respond.”

Not much went right for the Colonials during the lopsided affair, in which its talented ACC opponent never trailed.

GW hit just 14 field goals on 62 attempts to go a season-low 22.6 percent from the field, committed 18 turnovers and allowed all 12 Seminoles that saw minutes to get on the board.

GW’s leading scorer, star graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh, was held to just eight points on the day – his lowest career-total as a Colonial. Sunday’s contest marked the first time Cavanaugh did not score in double-figures in a GW uniform ending a 45-game streak.

Still without injured junior guard Yuta Watanabe (leg) and graduate student forward Patrick Steeves (knee), freshman forward Kevin Marfo was a lone bright spot as he led with a game-high 18 points and co-led GW with nine rebounds alongside freshman center Collin Smith.

“[Marfo] is a guy that we are bringing along He took a major step forward today,” Joseph said. “This is a kid that has a tremendously high motor, plays extremely hard, emotional passionate and all that kind of stuff. He is a tremendous player but he needs to continue to get better at the things we have been stressing.”

The Colonials came out cold from the get-go, with virtually nothing falling on the offensive end despite getting some good looks.

GW shot an anemic 5-for-25 (20 percent) from the field across the first frame. The Colonials made up some production at the line, where they scored a third of their season-low 48 points going 16-for-24 to FSU’s 5-for-8.

The Seminoles’ balanced attack easily exploited another weak defensive showing by the Colonials, especially down low. Despite being outrebounded 52-42, more than half of FSU’s 67 points came from inside the paint (34) as it finished the game shooting 40.9 percent from the field and 8-for-22 from long range.

The Colonials tried a number of different defenses, switching mostly between a 3-2 zone and man-to-man coverage, and even broke out the 1-3-1 for a play or two, but nothing was working against an offense that ended the day with three players in double-figures and received 35 points from its bench to GW’s 27.

Its inability to make stops, as well as conceding 17 points off turnovers, halted GW’s attempts to find a rhythm.

“We tried to do different things to keep them on their toes,” Joseph said. “But this is talented team, talented players with a lot of length and athleticism. So we couldn’t really get into a groove.” 

After taking a 35-19 edge into halftime, FSU’s largest lead of the game came with 7:24 left in the second half up 65-30. The Colonials went on an 18-2 run to close out the game, as both teams subbed in their reserves.

“We have to take a step forward,” Joseph said. “This is a great learning experience for our guys, this is our first time getting our butts kicked like this…I am excited to see how we are going to react in practice.”

The Colonials look to rebound Wednesday as they visit Philadelphia to take on  Temple (6-2) at 7:30 p.m.

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Graduate student Lexi Martins goes up for a shot in GW's win over Illinois. Jack Borowiak | Hatchet Photographer

Graduate student Lexi Martins goes up for a shot in GW’s win over Illinois. Jack Borowiak | Hatchet Photographer

Updated: Dec. 4, 2016 at 4:21 p.m.

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Barbara Alberts.

Women’s basketball (7-2, 1-0 A10) marched to another solid victory over the Fighting Illini (3-5) at the Smith Center Sunday, picking up its fourth win in a row.

GW stormed past Illinois 72-56 in a game where every Colonial saw minutes on the court and the team went 16-for-16 from the stripe – a place where they’ve previously had trouble picking up points.    

“We have been playing pretty well and defending our home court,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “Getting a good win over a Big 10 opponent doesn’t hurt.”

The Colonials opened the game by continuing the offensive push from their game against VCU, on Friday

Sophomore combo-guard Mei-Lyn Bautista struck first for the Colonials with a beautiful three-point shot, the beginning of a strong showing by GW.

Senior guard Hannah Schaible and graduate transfer Lexi Martins also both picked up where they left off in the win over the Rams.

Schaible was fast out of the gate, dropping six points and grabbing two steals, while Martins came off the bench with confidence, snatching four rebounds and dropping nine points in the first quarter, including a beautiful three-point shot.

Schaible’s scrappy play resulted in a team-best 14 points, three rebounds and two steals in the game.

“I want the ball, I wear my kneepads, that’s how I bring the energy,” Schaible said.

GW’s defense was airtight.  The Illini were 0-for-4 from beyond the arc before Illinois’ freshman guard Brandi Beasly dropped the first three of the day for the visitors roughly seven minutes into the second quarter.  The Colonials held Illinois’ standout sophomore forward Alex Wittinger to just four points in the half.

Illinois scored in spurts but could not keep up a consistent offense.  The Colonials’ sizeable height difference under the hoop in senior forward Caira Washington helped contribute 12 points in the paint for GW in the half.  Sharpshooting from GW saw the team hit 5-for-10 from beyond the arc and 44.8 percent from the field overall in the half.    

The Illini picked up only six points in the paint heading into the break, and shot 31 percent from the field. 

Junior forward Kelli Prange hit a buzzer-beating three from nearly half-court to close out the frame, with GW leading 41-25. The 6-foot-5-inch forward contributed eight points and five boards on the day, including 2-for-4 from long.

“I definitely take advantage of the versatility that I bring to the game of basketball,” Prange said.

Washington opened the third quarter crashing the boards in her usual aggressive fashion, picking up six points out of the gate and one block.  A Washington-Prange combo under the hoop stifled any chances the Illini had in the paint, and a swarming Colonial defense forced two shot clock violations and held the visitors to just seven points.

Washington totaled a near double-double with 10 points and a team-high 9 rebounds against the Orange and Blue.

After heading into the fourth quarter with a comfortable 60-32 lead, Rizzotti rested her starters and emptied her bench.

Freshman guards Kendall Bresee and Harper Birdsong, along with sophomore forward Kelsie Mahoney, all helped close out the game, contributing seven of the 22 bench points in the game.

Despite the Illini picking up 24 points in the final quarter, the Colonials were still able to handily put the game away.

Three Colonials scored in double digits, including junior guard Brianna Cummings, who recorded 12 points, five rebounds and three assists.

The team ended the day shooting 40 percent from the field and scoring 19 second-chance points to the Illini’s three.

“We’re working really hard to make our offense all-inclusive and tough to guard with a bunch of different options,” Rizzotti said.   

The Colonials hit the road this week, visiting American University Wednesday night with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m.  

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This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Marty Fenn.

What: GW Women’s Basketball (6-2) vs. Illinois (3-4)

Where: The Smith Center, Washington, D.C.

When: Sunday, Dec. 4 at noon

The Colonials will host the Fighting Illini as they look to extend their winning streak to four games.

The Case for the Colonials

The Colonials stand at 6-2 after defeating VCU on Wednesday evening (also giving them their first conference victory in an unusually early A-10 matchup), and nearly overcame a double-digit deficit to defeat #20/21 Syracuse at the Gulf Coast Showcase.

What has been particularly notable for GW as of late is the offensive production across the board. Four players finished in double figures during the win against VCU, and 25 of the 32 made field goals came by way of an assist, a season-high for the Colonials.

Seniors Caira Washington and Hannah Schaible are the only players averaging double figures for the season (Washington at 13.0 ppg and Schaible at 10.8 ppg), but three members of the team have put up at least 8.0 points per game (Brianna Cummings, Lexi Martins and Kelli Prange).

The Colonials are shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a team, an immensely positive sign for a team that struggled with offensive efficiency last year.

The Colonials could use a fast start to set the tempo. The pace has been slow at times in the first half for GW, who usually find their energy in the third quarter, outscoring opponents 173-110 in that period.

The Case for the Illini

Illinois has struggled out of the gates, stumbling to a 3-4 record while averaging just 59.0 points per game on 35.7 percent shooting as a team. Opponents, however, haven’t fared much better trying to score against the Illini.

Head coach Matt Bollant’s team likes to slow the ball down and work the post, particularly finding sophomore forward Alex Wittinger the ball. In last season’s matchup against the Colonials, Wittinger went for 14 points and added seven boards.

If Wittinger can control the glass against Caira Washington and Lexi Martins and help slow the game down, the Illini may have a good chance.

Illinois will also have to force turnovers. For a team that doesn’t hold on to the ball well, they will need to create opportunities in transition and try to catch the Colonials off-guard. They cannot afford to let GW get into their motion offense and create chances around the perimeter

The Bottom Line

Illinois has not been playing good basketball, while the Colonials are finding their groove. If GW controls the ball and continue to get offensive contributions from guards and forwards, it’s going to be a long afternoon for the Illini.

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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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