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Women’s basketball finds strength in frontcourt during first A-10 games

Hatchet File Photo by Hadley Chittum | Photographer
Redshirt freshman forward Mayowa Taiwo is averaging 9.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in conference play.

Women’s basketball has begun to see improvement in reducing turnovers and scoring in the paint during the first few conference games.

In their opening trio of Atlantic 10 games, the Colonials (7-9, 1-2 A-10) defeated Duquesne but fell to George Mason and Fordham. Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said the squad is still learning from past games and gaining experience to find a balance in all facets of the game.

“Our guards and our posts needed to figure out how to play together and what’s going to work, and it’s just been a focus for us and something that we talked a lot about,” Rizzotti said.

The Colonials are averaging 12.7 turnovers per game in A-10 play, down from their season average of 17.7 per game. Through its first trio of conference games, GW is sharing the ball and averaging 14.3 assists per game, up from its season average of 11.8.

The squad’s assist-to-turnover ratio in conference play clocks in at No. 4 in the A-10 at 1.13. Rizzotti said the statistic “feels good” because it demonstrates how her team has progressed to strengthen a former weakness.

“There’s an area that was a real weakness for us, and we’re figuring out how to neutralize it a little bit,” Rizzotti said. “I wouldn’t say that it’s a strength, taking care of the ball, but it certainly hasn’t been as big of a weakness for us in A-10 play. So we need to continue to work hard to make sure that becomes a strength.”

Rizzotti added that her backcourt is an area in which she wants to see “continued growth” because her players are relatively inexperienced. Junior guard Lexus Levy is the only guard who has seen minutes in conference play this season who also saw minutes on the court last season. She averaged 10.5 minutes on the hardwood against conference foes during the 2018-19 season and 8.3 minutes this season.

Graduate student guard Ariel Stephenson and redshirt junior guard Sydney Zambrotta have college-level playing experience, but they are wearing GW uniforms for the first time this season and have been sidelined throughout the year with injuries.

Redshirt freshman guard Tori Hyduke, who is in her first year on the court, has assumed a portion of the ball handling responsibilities and leads all guards in average minutes with 27.7 per game. Sophomore guard Maddie Loder, who averaged 26.6 minutes per game last season as a ball handler, has not seen the floor since Dec. 20.

Rizzotti said for her backcourt to be successful, they need to be more patient throughout the game. Guards have averaged 20.7 points in conference play this season.

“We need to make sure we have a little bit more patience early in the game about letting our offense work and letting our post players draw the kind of defense that’s going to allow for easier shots on the perimeter,” Rizzotti said.

The frontcourt has thrived offensively in Rizzotti’s system. It has amassed 38.1 points per game against A-10 competition. The Colonials have also tapped into the paint for scoring opportunities, averaging 24.7 points a game in the lane.

A duo of post players made up of graduate student forward Alexandra Maund and sophomore center Kayla Mokwuah lead the charge for the Colonials, averaging double-digits.

Rizzotti said Mokwuah and Maund are able to sub in and out for each other, allowing them to stay fresh and “dominant” in each rotation.

“They have a sub for themselves so they can get a break,” Rizzotti said. “When I can split minutes between them, they end up being really, really efficient. What I don’t have right now is the ability to split minutes for Mayowa.”

Redshirt freshman forward Mayowa Taiwo nearly averages a double-double against conference foes. In her first look at A-10 play, she is averaging 9.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. She notched a career-high 18 points against Duquesne and ripped a career-high 14 boards against Fordham.

Rizzotti said Taiwo’s success has sprouted from a new approach to using her quickness and strength. She added that with increased experience and patience, Taiwo has slowed down the game and increased her effectiveness.

“It was nice to see her trying to really figure out in the last couple weeks how to take advantage of her physical assets, but also to be able to slow the game down in her mind and be much more effective,” Rizzotti said.

The Colonials are back in action Saturday to battle Davidson on the road. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Roman Bobek contributed reporting.

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