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The GW Hatchet

AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

All-defensive anchor enters final season with women’s basketball

Then-redshirt+freshman+Mayowa+Taiwo+prepares+to+pass+the+ball+in+a+game+against+UMass+in+2020.
Hatchet File Photo
Then-redshirt freshman Mayowa Taiwo prepares to pass the ball in a game against UMass in 2020.

The game was tied with just 10 seconds to go. After a back-and-forth final quarter against Duquesne, the score was knotted at 68 in the second round of the Atlantic 10 Championship.

Then-junior guard Asjah Inniss’ layup attempt bounced off the rim. Then-senior forward Mayowa Taiwo leapt for the rebound, bringing down the ball. She kept her eyes up and found graduate student guard Mia Lakstigala on the perimeter, who sunk the game-winning 3-pointer with just seconds left.

The Chase Fieldhouse erupted as Lakstigala’s 3-pointer gave GW the lead.

The shot cemented GW women’s basketball’s best season since 2018. The team made it to the quarterfinals of the 2023 A-10 tournament on the back of Taiwo’s rebound and assist.

“I’m just really proud of her, that she was able to get that last one,” Lakstigala said of Taiwo in a press conference after the game. “And when she kicked it out, I knew the time was running down, so all I had to do was shoot it.”

Taiwo, who is entering her fifth and final season, doesn’t light up the scoreboard with 7.4 points per game, but her impact on the court is immeasurable. This past season, she averaged 9.7 rebounds per game, good for third-highest in the A-10. She’s a dominant presence inside, controlling the game with her ability to bring down boards and post up. Last year alone, she collected 142 offensive rebounds, tied for fourth in the nation.

Taiwo’s staples are the clutch defense and hustle plays that make her a conductor of momentum on the team.

Last season, Taiwo’s play earned her a spot on the A-10 All-Defense Team. This preseason, she earned the designation once again, along with a spot on the third-team All-A-10.

“It feels good to be recognized like that,” Taiwo said. “I think I bring a lot of things to the court that aren’t necessarily categorized, so I’m glad to get the recognition.”

Hailing from Hanover, Maryland, Taiwo came to GW after attending Rockbridge Academy. After redshirting her freshman year due to a preseason injury, Taiwo worked her way onto the court, gaining more minutes and becoming familiarized with both the offense and defense.

“Her presence alone, everything that she does, there are things that don’t always show up in the score column,” Head Coach Caroline McCombs said. “But it’s just the hustle plays and the effort things that she does that we appreciate so much.”

This past season marked the first year in which she started every game. She ranked first on the team playing in 974 minutes of the team’s 1,240 total minutes.

Above all else, Taiwo believes her basketball IQ has grown with more experience, with more time on the court giving her more confidence and helping to slow down the game. In a February game last season against rival George Mason, this was clear.

Taiwo was all over the court, scoring 10 points to go along with nine rebounds. She dished three assists, connecting with Lakstigala on a 3-pointer, which brought GW to a 32-19 lead in the second quarter. The team’s defense, anchored by Taiwo, was on display that game, as they held the Patriots to just 39 points, their lowest figure of the season.

“Yeah, Mayowa was just constant for us,” McCombs said in a press conference after the game.

Games like these, a regular for Taiwo last season, were few and far between in prior years. A particularly rough stretch in the 2019 season, her first year playing, saw Taiwo shoot 5 for 29 over a five-game stretch in December, on top of committing eight turnovers. The team lost all five games.

“I used to run myself out of bounds as a freshman, I was just going way too fast,” Taiwo said.

As a fifth-year player and a face of the program, Taiwo has taken on more of a leadership role for the team’s younger players, albeit in her own way.

“I’m not going to be the most vocal, I very much lead by example,” Taiwo said. “But during game time, I’m going to tell you what I need to tell you.”

“Oh yeah,” sophomore guard and rising star Nya Robertson said, grinning as she chimed into the interview.

With the offseason addition of graduate student forward Maren Durant, a transfer from Boston University, who herself is a stalwart in the paint, Taiwo should draw more beneficial matchups against smaller players, rather than the opposing team’s center. Durant’s addition will help bolster Taiwo’s already dominant defensive abilities.

“I think she’ll be really hard to box out, but I think they complement each other well, play well together and will be an elite defensive team with those two on the court,” McCombs said of the duo.

Reflecting on her career at GW, Taiwo said her time with her team off the court is her favorite memory, naming the foreign tours in Europe and team dinners as specific core moments for her. In a visit to an October practice, it was clear how much of an impact she had on her teammates, and the mutual respect and admiration they all shared. When the team chanted “family” to end the practice, it wasn’t just team-speak but a testament to how close-knit the group was.

As for this season, Taiwo isn’t letting high expectations get the best of her, trying not to focus on things outside of her control.

“I want to stay healthy and have fun,” Taiwo said. “That’s a personal goal for me.”

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