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PAUL closes in Western Market
By Ella Mitchell, Staff Writer • April 22, 2024

Women’s basketball mid-season observations

Senior guard Shannon Cranshaw battles a defender at American on Dec. 7. Cranshaw's 41.7 percent three-point shooting clip is second-best in the Atlantic 10.
Senior guard Shannon Cranshaw battles a defender at American on Dec. 7. Cranshaw’s 41.7 percent three-point shooting clip is second-best in the Atlantic 10. Jack Borowiak | Hatchet Photographer.

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Agam Mittal.

Midway through the regular season, a women’s basketball beat writer shares five observations on the Colonials’ out-of-conference performance:

1. Convincing wins and close losses

Despite five non-conference losses, the two-time Atlantic 10 Champion Colonials (9-5, 2-0 A-10) currently own the third-best winning percentage in the A-10 and are tied for first place with Fordham (11-5, 2-0 A-10) and George Mason (9-6, 2-0 A-10).

GW has also played better than their record suggests. Of the five losses, three have been by fewer than five points, and both double-digit losses were close games in the fourth quarter. In the season-opener against Georgetown, the Colonials led by one point with under five minutes remaining before conceding an 18-2 Hoya run. More recently against No.11 Stanford, the Colonials trailed by just eight points in the fourth quarter before the Cardinal pulled away.

On the flip side, they have been recording convincing victories – eight of GW’s nine wins have come by double-digits, including a 29-point victory over Florida Gulf-Coast and a 31-point rout of Coppin State. More recently, the Colonials blew out the Duquesne Dukes, 75-40, in an impressive road performance on New Year’s Day.

2. Statistical dominance

The Colonials are adjusting well to the new system implemented by first-year head coach Jennifer Rizzotti. Her scheme has been successful on both sides of the ball, and statistically, the Colonials are top-three in the A-10 in several offensive and defensive categories. Further, in its composite statistical rankings, the Jeff Sagarin/CBN Women’s College Basketball Ratings ranks GW at 53 out of 349 Division I teams, 21 spots ahead of the next-best A-10 team (St. Louis, 74).

On offense, GW has benefited from high-quality shot selection and strong post-play. The Colonials are second in FG percentage (42.1%), second in scoring offense (67.6 ppg), and second in assists per game (16.6).

Defensively, the Colonials own the conference’s top field goal percentage defense, limiting opponents to just 35.2 percent shooting from the field. GW is also third in three-point field-goal percentage defense (27.1%).

The Colonials have been dominant around the rim and inside of the restricted zone, piling up rebounds and blocks. They are first in the A-10 in rebounding offense (43.4), first in rebounding margin (+8.6), and first in blocked shots (6.5) – the ninth-best mark in all of NCAA Division I.

3. Strong interior play

Senior center Caira Washington has been a consistent presence in the paint for the Colonials, posting 12.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. The Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Conference First Team selection has scored in double figures in 11 of 14 games and leads the Colonials with four double-doubles. Washington’s greatest improvement from her junior season has been her efficiency– she tops the conference at 65.0 percent shooting from the field, good for seventh in the country. Defensively, she places second in the A-10 in blocked shots per game (2.1) and third in offensive rebounds (3.9).

Washington’s supporting cast includes junior Kelli Prange and graduate transfer Lexi Martins. Prange, a stretch-four, is averaging 12.5 points over her last three games; she stuffed the stat sheet with a season-high 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting with three blocks, three assists, two rebounds and two steals against Loyola (Md.) in the non-conference finale.

Martins, who is rebounding at an impressive clip of 14.2 boards per 40 minutes, was the best player on the court in GW’s New Year’s Day rout of Duquesne. The 1000-point transfer from Lehigh had 14 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, and a career-high four steals against the Dukes en route to her 44th career double-double.

4. Reserve guards producing

Off the bench, senior shooting guard Shannon Cranshaw has been a pivotal piece of the Colonial offense. She ranks second in the A-10 in three-point shooting, connecting on 41.7 percent of attempts from the field. A career 33 percent shooter from downtown, Cranshaw has hit multiple threes in seven games.

After missing three games with a hand injury, junior Camila Tapias saw limited action in her return vs. Stanford but has since played a major role in the lineup. In her last two games, Tapias has scored 20 points and has converted on 60 percent of her three-point attempts. She posted her highest total of the season against Duquesne with 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from distance.

Currently, Tapias ranks third in the A-10 in three-point shooting, right behind Cranshaw. Asked about Tapias’ performance after GW’s blowout of Duquesne, Rizzotti was extremely pleased with what she saw.

“It definitely hurt us, the three games that [Camila Tapias] missed,” Rizzotti said. “She is obviously somebody that can really get hot for us, and somebody that can also be great on defense.”

Playing behind guards Mei-Lyn Bautista and Tapias, freshman Kendall Bresee has made the most of her limited minutes in a reserve role. The local product from Frederick, Md. posted a season-best four assists, zero turnovers versus Loyola (Md.), and has seen an expanded role with 11 minutes and then 14 minutes against Stanford and Loyola.

5. Records Watch

Starting guard Hannah Schaible, who Rizzotti has regularly referred to as the team’s “glue guy,” is just five points away from becoming the 32nd member of GW’s 1000-point club – and the third 1000-point scorer on the active roster.  Schaible posted eight points, seven rebounds, and two blocks against Duquesne and is currently tied with teammate Bautista for the sixth-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the conference (1.6).

Washington, who has 968 career rebounds, needs just three boards to pass GW Athletics Hall of Famer Tajama Abraham (970) for second-most in GW history. If she pulls down just 32 more rebounds over the remaining 13 games, Washington will become the second player in program history to finish her playing career with 1000 points and 1000 rebounds.

“If you look at what she’s done already in her career, it’s pretty remarkable –  and she has yet to be the first option in the offense until this year,” Rizzotti said of Washington after a loss to Stanford on Dec. 21. “And, she’s performing so well even though she’s probably never faced as many double teams as she has this year.”

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