Struggles Continue for Women’s Basketball in 66-52 Loss to Rhode Island

By Liam O’Murchu (@Liam_0__)

Women’s basketball extended their five game losing streak with a 66-52 loss to Rhode Island on Wednesday night thanks to a disappointing third quarter.

The Revolutionaries (8-13, 1-8 A10) were unable to capitalize on an efficient 23-point showing from sophomore guard Nya Robertson and were undone by balanced scoring along with hot third quarter shooting from the Rams (15-8, 7-3 A10).

“I thought we had a good gameplan.” GW head coach Caroline McCombs said. “I thought we executed that well throughout the first half, particularly in the first quarter. Going into the third, they got hot from three and I think that just kind of blew the game open a little bit.

The Revs’ offense was methodical and balanced in the early going, with 4/5 starters scoring a field goal in the first five minutes. On the other end of the court, Rhody struggled to hit shots and were careless with the ball, allowing GW to lead 8-2 at the opening media timeout. From there play evened out as the Rams found their footing and some of the shots that were falling early stopped going in for the Revs. The one area GW thrived early on was down low, scoring 12 points in the paint. GW led 15-10 at the end of the opening stanza.

Despite an unforced turnover to open the second quarter (their eighth of the day), URI clawed back into it with strong defense and balanced scoring, something that would continue throughout the night. Robertson got into a rhythm early and was showing why she is among the best players in the conference when she’s on her game. The Fort Worth, Texas native was scoring at all three levels and getting to the free throw line at will as she accounted for half of her team’s points in the first half and single handedly kept them in the game offensively. In fact, the Revolutionaries scored a grand total of 0 points with Robertson on the bench in the game as a whole (although she only sat for four minutes).

On the defensive end, Robertson was tasked with defending junior guard Sophie Phillips, who leads the Atlantic 10 in three pointers made. The strategy was to tightly face guard her and follow her virtually anywhere she went. Although the Revs succeeded in limiting her attempts, Phillips showed why she’s so dangerous, going 4-for-6 from beyond the arc and leading the Rams with 12 points.

“It’s very hard to guard a really good shooter.” Robertson said. “But it’s about just staying focused, doing your job, getting over ball screens, and not letting her catch the ball open.”

At halftime, Rhode Island had nine turnovers and was shooting just 1-for-6 from the free throw line. Despite this, the teams found themselves tied at 26 at the break. From there, each team diverged down a different path.

The Rams came out of the locker room on fire, hitting nine of their 16 field goal attempts and four of their five three point shots in the third quarter. The opposite was the case for the Revs, who missed their first five shots and didn’t score a field goal until after the media timeout. As has been the case with GW all year, they did not have the offensive firepower to mount a comeback. The Rhody offensive rampage was overpowering, pushing them to a 24-9 scoring advantage in the third quarter and a 50-35 advantage overall.

“They don’t usually shoot 8-for-16 from three.” McCombs said. “So we’re rolling the dice, right? Whether you play man or you play zone, you’re sort of backing off some of their shooters except their really good shooters. So those are the chances that you’re taking because their inside game is that good.”

As if things couldn’t get worse for the Revs, their second leading scorer, graduate guard Nya Lok, rolled her ankle early in the fourth quarter and needed to be helped off the floor. Lok had been quiet all night on the offensive end, going just 2-for-10 from the floor with both shots coming from beyond the arc. But even though she had a quiet night on the score sheet, her presence will be missed if she is out long term. 

“She can score in such a variety of ways.” McCombs said. “It isn’t that she has to have an outside shot working, but we’ll look to post her up and do some other things to get her going. Because of her versatility we’re able to do that. I don’t want her to feel like ‘I have to make a basket! I have to make a basket!’ because she’s a really good defender so if she just has that presence that will create offense for her.”

McCombs said postgame she is unsure of the seriousness of the injury.

GW pulled a bit tighter in the middle of the fourth quarter and only trailed 57-47 with 3:21 remaining. But it wouldn’t be enough to beat the Rams, who remain one of four A10 teams GW hasn’t beaten under the tutelage of McCombs. Remarkably, this was only Rhode Island’s 10th win in 54 attempts against the Buff & Blue, illustrating how dominant GW has been as a program throughout their history.

With the win, URI moved into a tie for fifth place in the conference and remained in the running for a coveted top four spot in the standings, which guarantees you a double bye in the conference tournament. What impressed me most about the Rams was their balanced scoring (three players in double digits) and the fact that they were able to comfortably win without a prolific performance from their best player, senior forward Mayé Touré, who had eight points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes. However, I also left the game impressed with Touré, who commanded GW’s attention from start to finish and made several important plays down the stretch.

For the Revs, it is the same story on a different day. The defense is strong but they only have two players who are threats on offense. When one of them has a bad day (as Lok did, even before her injury) they frankly need a prayer to win against A10 opposition. On days where Nya Robertson is playing within the flow of the offense and knocking down shots, a lot of the problems can be masked. But the underlying problems remain. 

Despite having two of the better frontcourt players in the conference on paper coming into the year, GW has struggled down low this year (which is understandable when playing a team as prolific in the frontcourt as URI). Despite having four players return for their COVID year, only one of these players has shown meaningful improvement. Despite the fact that this team is in year three of a rebuild, they have an identical record as they did in conference play as they did in year one. 

It would be irresponsible to gloss over the impact of COVID, injuries (of which they’ve had a lot), and the evolving dynamics of college athletics. But for a team that was supposed to take a step forward this year, this season has been a huge disappointment. 

At the halfway point of conference play, it would be disrespectful to write the team off (and from everything I’ve gathered, the team is just as bought in as they were to start the year). But the clock is ticking. GW women’s basketball has won the Atlantic 10 tournament seven times, appearing in the NCAA Tournament 18 times in 48 years. This program should not accept what’s become the status quo the past few years.

Next up for the Revs is a visit to VCU, who is 11-0 at home this season. That game tips off at 1 PM on Sunday and it will be broadcast on ESPN+ and WRGW.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *