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NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, First Round: GW vs Gonzaga

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 #6 George Washington Colonials (29-3, 15-1 A10) vs. #11 Gonzaga Bulldogs (24-7, 16-2 WCC)
7:30 PM, Gill Coliseum, Corvallis, OR
Media: WRGW, ESPN2/WatchESPN
Announcer: Jeff Pawling
Click Here to Listen Live

The long wait is over as the George Washington Colonials return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. GW has to travel across the country for their appearance, as they face a tough Gonzaga Bulldogs team in the First Round of the Spokane Region.

It has been 12 days since the Colonials thrilling comeback win against Dayton to capture the Atlantic 10 Tournament title and automatic bid to the Big Dance. GW was fueled by Jonquel Jones‘ incredible second half performance, in which she scored 16 of her 21 total points, including four three-pointers, en route to being named the Atlantic 10 Championship’s Most Outstanding Player. Caira Washington and Hannah Schaible were also integral parts of the Colonials’ rally from an eight-point halftime deficit and joined Jones on the All-Tournament Team.

Today’s matchup with 11-seed Gonzaga, the first ever meeting between the two programs, is by no means an easy one. In fact, the Colonials may have drawn the toughest of the 11-seeds in the field as Gonzaga boasts a potent offense that is backed up solid defense and excellent team rebounding. The Bulldogs are led by Sunny Greinacher, the WCC’s 10th leading scorer at 13.7 points per game on 48.5 percent shooting, good for third in the conference. She also grabs 6.0 rebounds per game and, in combination with leading rebounder Shelby Cheslek (8.5 rpg), forms a potent duo on the boards that will present challenges to the Colonials’ front court of Jones and Washington. Keani Albanez is another offensive weapon the Bulldogs lean on, especially from beyond the arc, where she made a team-best 58 three-pointers. Schaible, Shannon Cranshaw, and Brianna Cummings will need to be locked in and use their length to shut down Albanez from the outside if GW wants to prevail in this first round matchup.

Make no mistake, the matchup with Gonzaga, on paper, shows that the game could be a difficult one. Gonzaga has suffered its share of disappointment in the last couple of years, having been upset in the semifinals of the WCC Tournament by eventual champion BYU and having been upset in last year’s NCAA Tournament as a 6-seed by 11-seed James Madison. The roles are now reversed for the Bulldogs, with Gonzaga coming in as the lower-seeded team and there is no doubt that they will be fired up to right the wrongs of last year.

As for the Colonials, today marks the return to the NCAA Tournament and, hopefully, the beginning of an era that hearkens back to the days of Joe McKeown. Jonathan Tsipis has done an incredible job turning this program around in three short years. More importantly, he knows from his days at Notre Dame what it takes to win in the postseason. We saw it at the Atlantic 10 Tournament and now we get to see it on display at the NCAA Tournament. GW may have gotten the worst draw of any team in the dance, but don’t expect Tsipis and company to use that as an excuse. As he said in his press conference yesterday, they have been playing with a chip on their shoulder “since the beginning of the season.” As long as the Colonials play their game and can dictate the pace and style of play, there is no reason why GW cannot move on to the second round.

WRGW’s coverage live from Corvallis will begin at 7:20 with tip off tentatively scheduled for 7:30 pm on gwradio.com.

Atlantic 10 Championship: GW vs. Dayton

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#1 George Washington Colonials (28-3, 15-1 A10) vs. #2 Dayton Flyers (25-5, 14-2 A10)
1 PM, Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, VA
Media: WRGW, ESPNU/WatchESPN
Announcers: Jeff Pawling, Mike Martenak
Click Here to Listen Live

After 31 games, including 15 regular season conference wins, a regular season conference championship, and two tournament wins this weekend, the top-seeded George Washington Colonials will lay it all on the line in the Atlantic 10 Championship Game against the second-seeded Dayton Flyers with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at stake.

Sunday’s championship game will be the third meeting between GW and Dayton, with the Colonials emerging victorious in the previous two matchups. GW’s first win over the Flyers on January 4th was considered by many to be an upset, as the Colonials rode a 24-point, 17-rebound performance from Jonquel Jones to their first A10 win of the season by a final of 69-66 at UD Arena. By the next time these two teams met on February 8th, pundits around the league knew how good GW was. The Colonials would also win that game at the Smith Center 67-56 behind an 18-point, 18-rebound performance from Jones.

However, it is tough to face any team three times in the same season, let alone beat them. Dayton is hoping that the third time’s the charm for them as they look to seek revenge for their previous two defeats to GW and complete unfinished business from last year, when as the top seed in the A10 Tournament, they were upset by Fordham in the championship game. The Colonials will need to lock down Flyers leading scorer Andrea Hoover, considered by most to be one of the two best players in the entire conference. Ally Malott, who injured her leg during the second half of Dayton’s semifinal win against Duquesne, will also need to play through the pain and be a difference-maker for the Flyers if they are to have a chance of beating GW.

Jonathan Tsipis and this Colonials team have waited a long time for this moment and now sit on the cusp of hoisting some major hardware and clinching the first automatic NCAA Tournament bid of the Tsipis era. GW is certainly clicking on the court right now and they have the blueprint for how to knock off a team many considered to be the best in the conference during the preseason. If the Colonials can stay composed and not let the moment become too big for them, there is no reason why they cannot knock off Dayton for a third time and bring the Atlantic 10 title back to Foggy Bottom.

Either way, it is shaping up to be a great game tomorrow at the Richmond Coliseum. WRGW’s coverage with Jeff Pawling and Mike Martenak begins at 12:50 with tip off scheduled for 1 pm on gwradio.com.

Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals: GW vs. Saint Louis

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#1 George Washington Colonials (26-3, 15-1 A10) vs. #9 Saint Louis Billikens (14-15, 7-9 A10)
11 AM, Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, VA
Media: WRGW, American Sports Network, CSN+
Announcers: Jeff Pawling, Mike Martenak
Click Here to Listen Live

The Atlantic 10 regular season champion George Washington Colonials get set to tip off their portion of the Atlantic 10 Championship bright and early on Friday morning when they take on the ninth-seeded Saint Louis Billikens.

The Colonials racked up Atlantic 10 accolades on Monday afternoon, with four members taking home honors. Head Coach Jonathan Tsipis garnered A10 Coach of the Year honors, becoming the first GW coach to win the award since Joe McKeown in 2007. Caira Washington was named to the A10 First Team and Kelli Prange earned a spot on the All-Rookie Team. But the bulk of the awards were taken home by star forward Jonquel Jones, who became the first player to win both A10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season since 2012, when Temple’s Shey Peddy achieved the feat. She also became the first Colonial to win Player of the Year since Kimberly Beck in 2008.

GW’s first opponent in the A10 Championship is a foe that should be familiar to the players, coaches, and fans. Saint Louis handed the Colonials their lone conference loss of the season back on February 11th, when they converted 11 three-pointers en route to a 79-61 win at Chaifetz Arena. The Billikens got out to a fast start in that game and were able to break GW’s press early and often and spread out their defense. GW managed to dig themselves out of a deep first half hole, but the second half became a disaster as they were outscored 51-36 by the sharpshooting Billikens and seemed to run out of energy as their 19-game winning streak came to an end.

No great team should need motivation for a conference tournament game, but the loss to these Billikens on February 11th should certainly have this team fired up and out for revenge on Friday morning. GW has played fantastic basketball since the loss and enter postseason play with tons of momentum and if they continue to play at that high level, the Colonials should get their payback and prove the previous loss was nothing more than a fluke.

WRGW’s coverage begins at 10:50 am with tip off scheduled for 11 am on gwradio.com.

GW Women’s Basketball Midseason Update

Jeff Pawling
Co-Director

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.