The George Washington women’s basketball team had faced its share of challenges by the time No. 14 Stanford arrived at Smith Center on Wednesday night. After all, the Colonials already had tangled with Syracuse, ranked No. 11 at the time, and lost by just three in a November tournament on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

But first-year Coach Jennifer Rizzotti knew the Cardinal would be her biggest test yet. Perennially ranked and with a deeply ingrained system passed down from roster to roster throughout Coach Tara VanDerveer’s 31 years at the helm, Stanford has the maturity Rizzotti’s squad is seeking.

The disparity was evident in a 71-52 loss, the Colonials’ third straight.

“They’re the best team we’ve played,” Rizzotti said. “I don’t think individually they’re as good as some of the players Syracuse had — and even some of the other teams we’ve played.”

The Colonials have one more nonconference game against Loyola (Md.) on Friday before Atlantic 10 play begins, and Rizzotti was searching for positives to take from the loss into league play.

“What we said in the locker room is what sets Stanford apart from those other teams is that they’re a team. So the whole is much better than its parts. . . . We want to be in a position where we’re able to do the same thing once we step into Atlantic 10 play [and] be the stronger, fitter, more disciplined team. So I think it’s a good lesson for us to see that, hey, they might not player-for-player be more talented than us, but they worked harder as a team to make things work for them.”

The worst stretch of an otherwise competitive game was the second quarter, in which Stanford outscored GW 30-9. The Colonials shot 18.8 percent to the Cardinal’s 73.3 percent from the floor in the period.

“We missed a couple bunnies and free throws, so it was 11-10, and we had missed four or five free throws and probably four or five layups,” Rizzotti said. “And sometimes that frustration level kind of gets to you. I think that that happened. Then, again, the patience wasn’t there to execute.”

The Cardinal (9-2) was led by Britt McPhee’s game-high 21 points. Erica McCall added 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Briana Roberson had 10 points.

George Washington (7-5) was led by Mei-Lyn Bautista, who scored 12 points, and Caira Washington (Georgetown Day), who had 10. Hannah Schaible grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.

Down 22 at halftime, GW opened the third quarter with a 7-0 run and eventually was within 43-31 late in the third quarter, but Stanford had too many weapons and too large of a cushion.

“I wanted them to come out and prove who they were in the third quarter,” Rizzotti said.

In the fourth, George Washington finally got within eight points with just over six minutes to play before a jumper from Roberson pushed the lead back to double digits. GW then missed six consecutive field goals as the Cardinal pulled away.

McLean native Marta Sniezek (National Cathedral) added seven points for Stanford.

Rizzotti’s task now is to get her team to internalize lessons from this loss before Friday’s matchup with Loyola. The Colonials open conference play at Duquesne on Jan. 1.

“Adversity builds character if you want it to,” Rizzotti said, “so we’re still trying to build our identity and figure out who we’re going to be this year. I think people forget, even though it looks like we have a veteran team, it is a very new system. We are asking different guys to be in much different roles this year and take on bigger responsibility, and I think that they’re still figuring that out a little bit.”