Image credit: @LaSalle_WBB
By: Liam O’Murchu
Riding consecutive wins against St. Bonaventure and Fordham, women’s basketball looked to continue to make a statement in the Atlantic 10 and get off to their best start in conference play since 2016-17.
But the Buff & Blue (11-7, 3-2 A10) were unable to get going offensively and fell to La Salle 74-65 in northwest Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.
George Washington got off to a relatively slow start but settled in following the first media timeout thanks to strong three point shooting from senior guard Nya Lok and freshman guard Nya Robertson. The Buff & Blue led 18-12 after one quarter but fell in a hole they couldn’t dig out of thanks to a 6-for-10 three point shooting performance from the Explorers (11-8, 2-2 A10) in the second quarter.
GW shot a measly 0-for-6 from beyond the arc and scored only 12 points in the second quarter. Robertson and graduate student guard Mia Lakstigala, GW’s leading scorers coming into the game, were both quieted by a La Salle defense that gave them very little space to operate. After outscoring GW by 14 points in the second quarter, the Explorers never looked back.
“I thought we started out fairly well and, just that second quarter we never recovered from obviously,” GW head coach Caroline McCombs said. “Basically, they shot really well from three, which is what they do.”
La Salle was finding open threes with ease although they cooled down a bit in the second half, hitting only four. The Explorers were slow out of the gates in the second half but GW’s offense was unable to take advantage, missing open threes and layups alike. The Buff & Blue managed to stay within striking distance but needed a run to get back into the game. Unfortunately for GW, they waited too long to make their run.
“I think sometimes our offense dictates our defense,” McCombs said. “So really making sure we get the right shot on offense so that doesn’t allow them to just get easy points in transition [is important].”
As soon as the Buff & Blue finally hit consecutive shots, they struggled to get a stop on the defensive end. To put it simply, it just wasn’t GW’s day as La Salle got revenge on the team who surprisingly knocked them out of the Atlantic 10 tournament last spring.
“There was a series in the third quarter where we were putting them on the free throw line and then we weren’t boxing out on the free throw line either,” McCombs said. “So those are the types of things that just give a team momentum, kind of add to their lead, where we’re down, we’re trying to come back and we just kept allowing them to get easy points.”
When GW struggles offensively like they did against La Salle, their overall performance suffers as well. The team is 9-0 when they shoot above 40% from the field and 2-7 when they shoot below that mark. Furthermore, the team is 4-1 when they surpass the 70 point mark and 11-0 when the other team scores less than 70 points.
After suffering a knee injury in the team’s 63-57 win over Fordham, junior guard Asjah Inniss, who’s started every game she’s played in, was not in uniform against La Salle. McCombs said she would likely be a game time decision for the team’s matchup with George Mason on Monday afternoon. Robertson stepped into Inniss’ spot in the starting lineup, tying a career high with 33 minutes while junior guard Aurea Gingras got her first minutes in the last seven games.
It was an 11 point deficit for GW heading into the final stanza and they just couldn’t do enough to pull themselves back into it before it was too late. The quarter started with a hook shot from redshirt senior Mayowa Taiwo to cut the Explorers lead to 55-46. But La Salle quickly went down the floor and hit a contested three pointer to push the lead back to double digits. Many of the things that hamstrung the Buff & Blue throughout the game continued in the fourth quarter. The most notable of these were the number of missed layups and silly fouls GW had down the stretch.
But with just over two minutes left, Nya Robertson flashed her potential and electric scoring ability, outscoring La Salle 12-2 herself over the course of 1:35 to pull GW within 69-62 with 55 seconds remaining. That scoring burst boosted Robertson’s stat line to 20 points, three rebounds, and three assists on 6-for-20 shooting from the floor and 5-for-11 from three.
Robertson has emerged as a key contributor for the Buff & Blue, averaging 12.7 points, 2.1 assists and 1.9 rebounds per game. Her quickness and shooting range have opened up GW’s offense and she plays with a youthful energy and smile that is contagious. She’s been among the best freshmen in the conference but somehow hasn’t been rewarded with A10 Rookie of the Week honors this season. But with an average of 21.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists on 44% three point shooting over her past two games it seems like that could change this week.
GW was slow to foul after graduate student guard Jayla Thornton hit a three pointer and brought the Buff & Blue within six points. After letting La Salle wind down the shot clock, GW was unable to grab the rebound after a missed shot. They finally fouled with 15 seconds left but the Explorers hit three of four free throws and sealed the victory.
The Buff & Blue sit in fifth place in the Atlantic 10 as they enter the third week of conference play, outperforming preseason expectations that had them as the 11th best team in the conference according to the A10 coaches poll. The team has struggled to play a complete game for all four quarters this season but the ability of numerous players to step up offensively has made GW unpredictable and difficult to slow down on the offensive end.
GW has the chance to flush this loss from their memories with a quick turnaround as they visit George Mason on Monday at noon. The game is the first part of a Revolutionary Rivalry doubleheader in Fairfax, as the men’s team takes on the Patriots at 4 PM. Both of those games can be found on CBS Sports Network and WRGW.