There was a good reason Caira Washington of George Washington was ranked among the top 10 nationally in field-goal percentage last week.
And she was also another reason that the Colonials won their first three Atlantic 10 Conference game this season, before losing 50-48 on Sunday at Dayton.
GW had posted an impressive 75-40 win on Jan. 1 at Duquesne after GW outscored the hosts 31-7 in the first quarter in a rematch of last year's Atlantic 10 title game from last March in Richmond.
Washington had eight points, six rebounds, three steals, three assists and one block against the Dukes, picked to be among the top teams in the conference this season.
The senior standout from nearby Brandywine, Md., not only knows when to shoot but when not to shoot.
Case in point was the last non-conference game of the season, at home on Dec. 23 against Loyola (Md.) in one of only two Division I women’s games held that day.
With the shot clock winding down Washington got a pass along the baseline. Realizing she was guarded closely and with a bad angle to the basket, the 6-1 Washington fired a pass in the corner to Hannah Schaible.
The senior guard then quickly passed to sophomore guard Mei-Lyn Bautista, who nailed a 3-pointer near the top of the key to give GW a 10-point lead en route to a 74-64 victory. Those types of decisions are sweet music to Washington’s new head coach.
“She obviously shoots a high percentage. The shots she takes are good ones,” said former UConn All-American Jennifer Rizzotti, in her first season at GW after 17 years at the University of Hartford. “There were games earlier in the year when I felt she didn’t get enough touches.”
Rizzotti is well aware that Washington was the Most Valuable Player in the 2016 conference tournament and has been a first-team all-conference player. But Washington has not settled for the status quo, especially after former teammate Jonquel Jones was a first-round draft pick by Connecticut last season.
Jones averaged 16.2 points and 14.6 boards per contest last year but missed several games due to injury.
That may have aided Washington. She had to carry more of an offensive load while Jones was out. This season Washington was averaging a team-high 11.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per contest through Jan. 8.
“I was interested to see how she would develop as the go-to guy,” Rizzotti said of Washington, who averaged 11.2 points per game as a freshman, 12.2 as a sophomore and 13.2 as a junior. “We have just really challenged her to pick up her game. Her post moves have been way better than they were two months ago. There isn’t any complacency. She wants to improve.”
GW was 10-6 overall and 3-1 in the conference going into a day game on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at nearby George Mason. The Colonials then host Davidson on Sunday, Jan. 15.
Duquesne was picked to finish in a tie for second with Dayton in the A-10 Preseason Coaches’ Poll, while GW was pegged for fourth. GW’s home game with Duquesne on Jan. 29 will be televised by ASN.
“Right now we are great in transition. We like to push it,” Washington said. “We need to communicate better on defense. We do well for a certain segment then have a breakdown. We need to tighten that up.”
David Driver is a free-lance writer based in Cheverly, Maryland. Follow him @DaytonVaDriver