Colonials Start Strong, End Strong in First Postseason Win Since 2008

Raynell Cooper
Women’s Basketball Writer

PHILADELPHIA – Postseason basketball: where teams take their energy and urgency as far as they can. The Colonials were able to push it a little farther than Richmond on Friday.

GW runs of 15-2 and 10-2 bookended what proved to be a thrilling 8-9 battle in the first game of the Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Championship, as the Colonials (14-15, 8-7 A-10)  were able to get a 59-53 win over the Richmond Spiders (16-15, 6-9) to advance to the quarterfinals.

In a game that was a rematch of a 57-54 GW win in Washington back in early February, the Colonials were able to shoot 44 percent, their seventh game at or above that mark this season. They were led in scoring by senior guard Danni Jackson, who scored 13 points and recorded five assists and three steals. Senior forward Megan Nipe netted 12 points and pulled down six boards, and graduate student forward Tara Booker just missed out on a double-double, grabbing 12 rebounds to go with nine points.

After a layup by redshirt senior Rachael Bilney in the opening minutes, the Colonials rattled off 15 straight, including a three by Danni Jackson. “I thought we started the game with a great sense of urgency,” said head coach Jonathan Tsipis after the game. The Colonials shot 7-12 to start things off, finding open jumpers and having success getting the ball into the post.

However, that run would be ended by a jumper from junior guard Becca Wann, who came off the bench and dominated offensively in the first half. While the rest of her Spider teammates shot 5-28 from the field, Wann went 4-6 and scored 13 before the halftime break. Also a varsity soccer player at Richmond, she used her quickness to get around the Colonials man-to-man defense, which otherwise kept Richmond cold.

The key to that defense was graduate student center Sara Mostafa, who also came off the bench to contribute. She did a great job of both sticking to her assigned player and manning the post, dissuading any would-be penetrators and helping to force poor shot selection.

After that run, the game tightened up significantly. From the 7:58 mark in the first half until over five minutes into the second half, neither team was able to string together two uninterrupted scoring possessions. Richmond was able to inch closer on the back of threes by Wann and redshirt senior Samantha Bilney, making it a six-point game at halftime.

The second half saw a shift in emphasis offensively for the Spiders, as GW moved senior Shi-Heria Shipp onto Wann which, combined with foul trouble, held Wann to just four points in the half. Coach Tsipis said that his players “did a better job of taking away her dribble-drive action” in the second half, in part due to Shipp’s ability to stick tight to Wann.

Junior guard Kristina King was able to pick up the slack, however, scoring 14 points in the second half. Richmond stuck with the Colonials and was able to finally take a lead with 5:55 left to go in the game at 51-49.

Crucial to Richmond’s ability to come back late in the game was offensive rebounding. Usually a hallmark of this team, GW was able to nab just three offensive boards in the first 30 minutes of the game. Also allowing the Spiders to retake the lead was their ability on defense, especially in the second half, to prevent efficient penetrations from the guards.

GW had lost leads before, but they knew that they had to play differently. “We didn’t blink,” said Tsipis of the Richmond comeback. “[Jackson] did a great job of keeping this team composed when they were making their run.” Her leadership and the level-headedness of the players in the later stretch of the game helped them come back from that small deficit and hold on for the win.

After being down 51-49, GW finished strong on a 10-2 run, which included several made free throws that helped ice the game. The Colonials were able to execute their defense effectively, stopping the Spiders from getting to the basket and getting open looks without drawing many costly fouls.

This is a major win for what has been a historically successful GW women’s basketball program. The Colonials have not made the semifinals of the conference tournament after doing it in 26 of the previous 27 years, and this is the first postseason win for anyone on the roster, including Sara Mostafa and Tara Booker, who are in their final year. Tsipis is not taking the win for granted, as he is appreciative of that fact that there are “a lot of teams that don’t get to play again tomorrow.”

As Tsipis alluded to, the Colonials will take the floor tomorrow in the quarterfinals, going up against the top seed in the tournament, the #11 Dayton Flyers (26-1, 14-0) from Hagan Arena. The tip is at noon, and you can catch all of the action on WRGW Sports – Colonials Radio Central at gwradio.com.

 

Posted on March 8, 2013, in Campus, GW Basketball, Women's Basketball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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