GW Women’s Basketball Midseason Update

Jeff Pawling

With non-conference play in the books, it’s time to take a look at where Jonathan Tsipis and his George Washington Colonials stand right now and just how far they could go as Atlantic 10 Conference play gets set to begin this weekend.
Current Record: 11-2, 1st in Atlantic 10

High Point: Winning the Freeport Division of the 2014 Junkanoo Jam

The Colonials trip to the Bahamas was billed, above all else, as a homecoming for standout Jonquel Jones. Yet, in the process, the stage became a coming out for Jonathan Tsipis’ squad as a force to watch. GW dispatched of North Carolina State and Purdue, both solid major conference teams, to win the Freeport Division of the tournament, led by Jones’ 36 points and 23 rebounds in the two games combined. Chakecia Miller and Lauren Chase also put together outstanding performances for the Colonials and were keys to both wins by solidifying the backcourt. In all, it is hard to find a single negative thing that came from GW’s trip to the Bahamas and, frankly, the tournament triumph can be pointed to as spurring on the Colonials’ torrid play and current nine-game winning streak.

Low Point: 75-65 Loss to Maryland

For one half, it seemed that GW was more than ready to hang with #9/8 Maryland right down to the final whistle, taking a 30-29 lead into the locker room at halftime. However, the second half was a nightmare for the Colonials as they were held to 38.5 percent shooting while allowing the Lady Terps to shoot 60 percent in a 10-point defeat. GW battled until the very end, but it is hard to ignore the fact that the second half was the most disheartening stretch of basketball this team has played all season, as they were thoroughly dominated in all facets of the game. Looking back, the loss seems like it happened an eternity ago, as the Colonials have played extremely good basketball ever since. But at the time, the Maryland loss raised a lot of questions about how good the team was and created the most discontent among supporters of the season.

Midseason MVP: Jonquel Jones

What more can be said about Jonquel Jones. After missing the first three games of the season, Jones returned to the team and immediately picked up where she left off last year as the main difference-maker for the Colonials. Jones averaged 15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in non-conference play and got it done on the defensive end with 16 blocks and six steals. Furthermore, she shot the ball with efficiency, making 53.5 percent of her attempts. Statistics like these explain why she has already racked up numerous accolades this year. In addition to her Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division MVP and numerous preseason honors, she has earned two Atlantic 10 Player of the Week awards and was recognized as a Naismith Trophy candidate. She is the key cog for GW and should continue on that path as the conference season begins.

Most Surprising Player: Kelli Prange

This one was tough to decide as the Colonials have had a few players emerge as key factors to their strong start. However, Kelli Prange gets the recognition because of what she has been able to do as a true freshman. Coming in, coaches and pundits knew that Prange was extremely talented and could contribute in her first collegiate season. However, the level at which she has played has been nothing short of incredible from day one. Prange was thrust into a starting role immediately with Jonquel Jones unavailable in each of the Colonials’ first three games. She responded with 24 points and 12 rebounds in the season opener at Florida Gulf Coast, earning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week accolades. Furthermore, she helped pick up some of the slack created not just by Jones’ absence, but also by Caira Washington’s slow start to the season. She is the team’s second leading scorer with 11.4 points per game on a crisp 49 percent shooting. We knew Prange, at 6’5”, would be a contributor this year. We just did not know she would be this good this soon.

Conference Play X-Factor: Lauren Chase

Coming into the season, many were not sure exactly what the Colonials would get out of Lauren Chase, the transfer point guard who missed all of last season with a personal medical condition. It was this type of uncertainty that created the notion that the backcourt could be the one facet that would hold GW back from taking the next step into the Atlantic 10’s elite. However, Chase proved to be a welcome presence for Jonathan Tsipis, solidifying the point guard role and easing the loss of the graduated Danni Jackson. Chase is currently the team’s fourth leading scorer with 9.1 points per game and has also chipped in 4.8 assists a contest. Her sharp play down the stretch in the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division title game sealed the win for the Colonials and, overall, she has been able to run the offense and take care of the ball just the way her coaches want her to.

However, she missed four non-conference games due to injury before returning in GW’s final non-conference tilt at Towson on New Year’s Eve. Coach Tsipis and his staff need Chase to be healthy as Atlantic 10 action begins. While the rest of the Colonial guards were able to hold down the fort in her absence, it remains to be seen whether those same guards can continue their good play against formidable opponents like Dayton, who they face right off the bat on January 4th. But if Chase can continue where she left off before her injury, GW can continue to ascend into the conference’s upper echelon.

Bottomline: Sky’s the Limit for the Colonials

At 11-2, the Colonials are undoubtedly in great shape. The biggest question left is whether GW can continue their impressive play into the gauntlet that is the Atlantic 10 portion of their schedule. As was mentioned above, GW tips off their conference slate with what is probably their toughest A10 tilt, a road matchup with Dayton. The Colonials are red hot right now on a nine-game winning streak, but a trip to preseason favorite Dayton is just about the worst draw the Colonials could have gotten to start their conference season. How GW fares in Dayton, win or lose, will tell us a lot about what to expect the rest of the way.

However, based on their play, there is no reason to shy away from my preseason prediction of 24 wins for this GW team. I admit that essentially predicting a 13-3 conference record is bullish, but this team has shown that the backcourt is not a liability, as was originally thought prior to the season, and that their frontcourt, when at full capacity, is among the best in the nation. The sky truly is the limit for this team this season and it should be fun to watch the rest of the way.

About Jeff Pawling

Co-Assistant Sports Director, News & Social Media, WRGW District Radio

Posted on January 2, 2015, in Campus, GW Basketball, Women's Basketball and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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