Early Threes Sink Colonials in Home Conference Opener
Women’s Basketball Writer
WASHINGTON – Great players have great games. Despite their best efforts, the Colonials fell victim to one of those today.
Junior guard Erin Shields put up a career-high 25 points (15 in the first half), shooting 5-10 from beyond the three-point line, to lead the St. Joseph’s Hawks to an 80-67 victory. GW had two career days on their side as well—Sophomore guard Chakecia Miller had 20 points, 16 of those in the second half, to match her career high, and freshman Alexis Chandler scored 10—more than she had all season. Megan Nipe had a season high 17 points to go with eight rebounds for GW, but it was not enough as the Hawks had all five starters in double figures.
The first half started off well for the Colonials. They leaped out to an 8-2 lead, with the GW defense causing turnovers and forcing outside shots, shots that the Hawks were not making in the early going. That all changed very quickly for St. Joseph’s, however, as junior Erin Shields would drain a three as part of a 14-4 run that would give St. Joe’s the lead. The GW defense did their job on the inside—the starting forwards for the Hawks combined to shoot 0-8 from the field. Not only did the usual suspects defend the basket, but freshman Alexis Chandler and senior Megan Nipe also helped to stem penetrations by St. Joe’s forwards Ilze Gotfrida and Chatilla Van Grinvsen.
However, after starting 0-3 from beyond the arc, the Hawks turned it around and finished the half with seven made threes–tied for the most GW had allowed in a game this season before tonight. As the shots were falling for the Hawks, who shot 51.9% in the first half, the Colonials’ offense was rendered rather ineffective. Drives to the basket were falling apart as they were developing, and GW had a tough time finding and making open shots. They shot 33% from the field, with the season’s leading scorer Megan Nipe leading the way with eight points. The Colonials went into the locker room trailing 43-24, being outrebounded 19-15.
Coach Jonathan Tsipis had high praise for Erin Shields, saying that she was probably the most improved player in the conference, complimenting her pure shooting ability but also pointing out that “she has more of a threat than a catch-and-shoot three-point shooter,” being successful distributing the ball and taking shots off of screens.
Tsipis said he emphasized at halftime for his players to be “better in transition, better at pushing the ball” in the second half. Shields controlled the point for most of the game and did a good job of outrunning the Colonials and getting set up early. “In the first half, St. Joe’s continued to attack throughout,” said Tsipis. The deficit at halftime was their largest of the season.
After a 5-1 run by the Colonials to tip off the first half, St. Joe’s was able to settle in once again. Their inside shooting and transition scoring picked up a bit and the lead was able to balloon back to as much as 21. Freshman Alexis Chandler controlled the point for parts of the second half, breathing life back into the Colonials with her fast-paced style of play. Chandler said after the game that her role is “all about energy” and calling her big role in the game a “great opportunity”.
The shooting of St. Joe’s slowed down a bit as well. They shot just 34.6% from the field in the second half after making over half of their shots in the first. The Colonials went on a 12-3 run towards the middle of the half led by Miller and Chandler. Chakecia Miller scored eleven points in the first 13 minutes of the half to contribute to the comeback effort, while Chandler had several successful drives to the basket and was active on defense. The second half was better on the boards, as they netted 26 rebounds after being able to pull down just 15 in the first half. However, Erin Shields was able to drop in two three-pointers between in a span of two minutes to preserve the double-digit lead for St. Joe’s that they were able to maintain.
The big takeaway from this game for the Colonials, besides the need to fix the transition defense which allowed St. Joe’s to make quite a few stop-and-pop jumpers, was the ability of Alexis Chandler to not only contribute on the offensive and defensive side, but to really catalyze this team. She was able to get more minutes due to her impressive play in practice and due to the injury of Shi-Heria Shipp, who is listed as day-to-day with a foot injury, and Aaliyah Brown, who played in a limited capacity. Tsipis talked about her expanding role, noting that “she knows the team needs her defensively…but even more so the team’s been telling her that she needs to attack more off the dribble.”
Another thing to note from this game is this team’s sluggish first half. Miller said it best when she said that the team has to “learn how to play hard for the full 40 minutes.” That is really the only way for this team to win games. They have played very solid basketball for parts of games, but have not been able to play a good game all the way through.
The Colonials (6-10, 0-2 Atlantic 10) will try to nab their first conference win against VCU in Richmond on Sunday afternoon. That game tips off at 1 p.m. and you can listen to all the action on WRGW Sports-Colonials Radio Central at gwradio.com.