Women’s Basketball Storms Back, Defeats American 69-59

Photo credit: Chris Bernacchi

By: Liam O’Murchu (@Liam_0__)

Women’s basketball continued their strong start to the season with a comeback 69-59 victory over crosstown rival American at home on Wednesday night.

The Revolutionaries (3-0) bounced back from a first half deficit and rode a hot shooting third quarter to victory for the second game in a row. They were paced by graduate student wing Nya Lok, who stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points, six steals, three rebounds, and three assists.

“You saw the slow start that we had in the first half.” GW head coach Caroline McCombs said. “We just had to throw that away and come out on our home court and defend the district.”

Neither team was strong offensively to start but the Eagles (1-2) held the upper hand and led 6-2 at the first media timeout. The struggles continued for GW early on offensively and they finished the first quarter down 14-8 while shooting only 3-for-15 from the floor. Fortunately the Revs defense kept them in the game with six steals in the first quarter, not allowing American to find their rhythm.

“We really wanted to protect the paint tonight and play positional defense.” Said graduate student wing Essence Brown, who finished with 15 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. “So that means being in each other’s gaps and helping each other.”

The offensive woes continued into the second quarter and once GW found their footing offensively, so did American. Senior guard Anna LeMaster matched a career high with 10 points in the first half alone to keep the Eagles ahead. Lok got her first points of the night with a crafty layup to cut the deficit to 16-13 with 7:12 left in the half. But despite the improved offense, the Revs were unable to take the lead heading into the break.

The Eagles led 30-23 at the break and many in the Smith Center lacked confidence in the Revs. But for the second game in a row, GW shifted gears offensively out of the break and quickly pulled ahead. It took the Revs less than two minutes to tie it at 30 thanks to a layup from graduate student forward Maren Durant and five points from Lok, forcing American head coach Tiffany Coll to take a timeout.

Although the timeout stopped the bleeding temporarily, Lok continued to impose her will, adding nine more points in the quarter to give the Revs a 50-43 lead heading into the final ten minutes.

“Every time I come into the game, I always think my defense has to be good for my offense to be good.” Lok said. “So I was coming in, locked in, making sure I’m just patient on things and not forcing anything, letting things come natural. The results just kind of happen, but I tried to focus on the process.”

“If there’s one person on our team that I’ve seen grow the most throughout their time here, it’s been Nya Lok.” McCombs said. “I’m incredibly proud of the woman that she’s becoming, of her maturity and her growth. Not just on the basketball court, but as a person.”

Despite a quiet shooting night (1-for-12 FG) from sophomore guard Nya Robertson, she still made her presence felt by getting to the line (7-for-12 FT) and equaling a career high with four assists.

Early in the fourth quarter, GW found themselves in a bit of foul trouble in the front court. Graduate student forward Mayowa Taiwo picked up her fourth foul with 8:04 left as the Revs held a 55-45 lead. After being a key cog for GW the last few years, Taiwo has started slow this year with the addition of Durant in the front court, averaging only 1.7 points per game on 9.1% shooting from the field.

“It’s my hope that we can play [Taiwo and Durant] together and then also individually.” McCombs said. “Mayowa will play the four and the five. I think she’s still learning that role at the four and still figuring out some of those things. So I think she definitely still has scoring opportunities there.”

With 5:23 left and an eight point lead, Durant picked up her fourth foul and suddenly McCombs was forced to play in crunch time without her two best frontcourt players. But the Revs held the lead thanks to the same solid defense that was there all day and some timely shots. Although GW had a few issues with the Eagles press in the waning moments, they pulled it out and moved to 3-0 for the first time since 2007-08.

As has been the case throughout McCombs’ time in Foggy Bottom, the defense stole the show and willed the team to victory. The Revs forced 25 turnovers and held American to 4-for-15 shooting from three point range. 

But it must be said that the offense struggled for stretches of the game, as they did in the first two games of the season. There were times when the Eagles blanketed Robertson and the team failed to find a second option, ultimately settling for a low-quality shot. If this team wants to be a force in the Atlantic 10 this year, they’ll have to figure out the offense sooner rather than later.

But make no mistake, this is a good team. The experience they have is invaluable and the fact that through three games they’ve had three different leading scorers speaks volumes about their depth. If they can consistently find Robertson high quality shots and incorporate their frontcourt stars (Durant and Taiwo) into the offense more while continuing the strong defensive play, the sky’s the limit.
The Revolutionaries will visit Maryland Eastern Shore on Saturday in an effort to move to 4-0 for the first time in 17 years. The game tips off at 2 PM and can be streamed on Delmarva Sports Network.

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