This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Nora Princiotti.
Who: GW (22-10) vs. Villanova (23-8)
Where: The Pavillion
When: Sunday, March 23 at 1 p.m.
It’s do or die for the Colonials as they continue their postseason run at Villanova in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament Sunday, having knocked out East Carolina 86-68 at the Smith Center Wednesday.
GW has been nearly unstoppable at the Smith Center this year, but has gone 5-5 on the road. In unfamiliar territory, it will be the Colonials aggressive, high-possession style offense against Villanova’s strong, calculated defense.
Case for Villanova:
The Wildcats have been hardened through the season by a tough schedule, ranking 50th in RPI according to the NCAA, compared to the Colonials at 72nd.
Absent of a truly dominant scorer, the Wildcats make up for it with nearly flawless protection of the basketball – turning it over less than nine times per game. Villanova’s 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio nearly doubles GW’s.
While Villanova’s play is predicated on their defense, the Wildcats do have ways to make opponents pay offensively, specifically with the three-ball. They average 8.4 buckets from downtown per game and have racked up more than 10 three pointers 11 times this year.
Junior forward Lauren Burford does the most long-range damage, making 2.1 treys per game off 40 percent shooting from behind the arc, but GW should also watch out for junior forward Emily Leer, who went 5-6 from downtown in the Wildcats’ regular-season finale. Her 6-foot-2 frame and sharp-shooting abilities will cause matchup problems for the Colonials frontcourt.
In the Wildcats’ win over Quinnipiac, senior guard Devon Kane surpassed the 1,000 career-point mark. She has been on a role as of late, averaging 13 points per game on the season.
Case for GW:
If GW can push the pace of the game and avoid getting stifled by Wildcat defenders, they have an advantage with the more potent offense. The Colonials score almost 77 points per game, while Villanova scores just under 65.
Additionally, GW’s greatest strength – rebounding – is Villanova’s greatest weakness. The Wildcats get beaten off the boards to the tune of a five-rebound deficit per game. Villanova shoots the ball over 40 percent from the field, so limiting their chances will be key for the Colonials.
Villanova’s versatile, sharp-shooting forwards have been difficult to contain all season, but facing 6-foot-4 Jonquel Jones could be a different story. Taking away the Wildcat’s height advantage, Jones and freshman Caira Washington have also grown more comfortable moving around and not living exclusively in the paint, a key to stick with Villanova’s stretch forwards.
The Villanova defense can be suffocating, holding opponents under 58 points per game, but it only creates a modest 12.1 turnovers per game. This may leave the Colonials some room to play their high-octane transition game without fear of having the ball pilfered away.
With both teams preferring very different tempos, expect the team who better controls the pace of the game to come out with the victory, and move on to the third round, played March 26-28.