Twenty-three months ago, a highly-touted assistant coach from Notre Dame arrived in Foggy Bottom, aiming to turn around a once-great program that was coming off a season in which the team won just four conference games.
This week, Head Coach Jonathan Tsipis leads a George Washington squad with just five conference losses into the Atlantic 10 Championship in Richmond. The Colonials, who finished tied for second in the conference, have the fourth seed in the tournament, earning them a bye in Thursday’s first round. Their first game, Friday at 2:30 p.m. against fifth-seed Saint Joseph’s, can be heard on WRGW.
This has been a strong season for the Colonials. They started hot, notching a home win against #10 California behind one of grad student Megan Nipe’s two 31-point performances. The team then split the season series with Saint Joseph’s and Dayton, the teams in the conference with the two highest RPI ratings.
The team’s strengths come inside, with sophomore Clemson transfer Jonquel Jones and Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year Caira Washington, each of whom had 10 double-doubles this season. Jones, who joined the team in late-December, is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.5 points per game to go along with nearly 11 rebounds a game.
But not all the offense has come from the post. The talent inside has done a good job of freeing up space outside for shooters, like Nipe, to nail threes. They have also been key in opening up lanes to the basket for guards like grad student Danni Jackson and junior Chakecia Miller. The shooting, however, has been cold at times, which highlights the importance of the players inside even more.
The defense has also been a major part of GW’s success. The scoring defense stats do not blow you away because the team tends to play more of a fast-paced, high-scoring game (which makes them fun to watch or listen to), but they have done a good job, especially in late game situations, of getting stops when they need to.
Atlantic 10 Tournament: GW comes into the tournament with the fourth seed, the team’s highest since 2008. They will play Saint Joseph’s in the second round of the tournament, a team GW split the season series with this season. Saint Joseph’s’ offense is built around two players: Erin Shields and Natasha Cloud. Shields is the A-10 leader in made threes, while Cloud is the team leader in rebounds. But this is a very deep Hawks team (neither of those two players finished in double figures in Thursday’s first round win against George Mason) with many weapons, both inside and out. Sarah Fairbanks and Ilze Gotfrida are going to have to muscle their way inside if the Hawks want to get the win.
GW beat the Hawks earlier this season in Philadelphia, behind a Jonquel Jones double-double. If this team is firing on all cylinders—like they were Saturday against the Dayton Flyers—then the Colonials can nab a win. But they will have to look to stay out of foul trouble and slow down Erin Shields.
A win against Saint Joe’s would pit GW against Dayton, the team that bounced the Colonials from the tournament last season. GW lost big in Dayton earlier this year, but won on Senior Day at the Smith Center. The Flyers are led by Andrea Hoover, conference player of the year, and get major contributions from Ally Mallott and Cassie Sant. Dayton is a very talented team with the power to hurt you from outside, but GW is a team that, on any given day, can beat anyone in the conference.
If the Colonials can make it to the finals, they have yet another tough test. The likely foes would be Saint Bonaventure or Fordham, two teams the Colonials have lost to on the road. GW had a hard time getting the Bonnies to play at GW’s faster pace, and Fordham’s Abigail Corning had a 20 point performance when the Colonials made the trip to the Bronx.
There are no cupcakes in the conference tournament draw. But this team has proven that they can beat nearly anyone in the conference when they are at their best, so it would hardly be a shock if the Colonials are the ones cutting down the Richmond Coliseum nets on Sunday.
Beyond the Conference Tournament: ESPN’s women’s basketball bracketologist Charlie Creme, does not have GW in his field of 64. The only two Atlantic 10 teams in the field, Dayton and Saint Joseph’s, will likely face GW this weekend, which is a good sign for the Colonials. However, with an RPI of 82 as of Thursday evening, it will be a tough sell, even with those wins, for an at-large bid in the tournament.
If GW can pull off a conference tournament win, they we will be headed to the Big Dance with an automatic bid. This scenario is not out of the question by any means. If they make it, the Colonials will have a tough first-round battle, almost certainly playing as a double-digit seed.
What is more likely is a place for GW in the Women’s NIT. The conference sent five teams to the tournament, with games being played at school hosts. This would be a great way for the younger players to get some more postseason experience and to help bring this program back into national prominence.
No matter how it turns out, Coach Tsipis has to be proud to have been able to turn the team he inherited into a 20-win squad. This is not only a good team, but an exciting team, so these postseason matchups are sure to entertain.
WRGW SPORTS DIRECTOR
On December 13, 2010 the bright future of Steven E. Smith (B.A. ’08), an alumni of WRGW Sports, was cut tragically short by a car accident when he was just 24 years old. This past Friday, on what would have been Smith’s 28th birthday, WRGW District Radio, in collaboration with Smith’s family, dedicated their Marvin Center studio in his honor, renaming it the Steven E. Smith Broadcasting Center, so that his memory and legacy with the radio station will live on for years to come.
Smith served the GW community as a broadcaster on WRGW Sports and the vice-president of Colonial Army. When he wasn’t calling Men’s and Women’s basketball games for the station, he was the radio voice of the Baltimore Orioles AA affiliate, the Bowie Baysox.
Smith was statistical whiz and lover of all things sports, but especially his New York Yankees and New Jersey Devils. He cherished his time with WRGW and was extremely dedicated to his work there. In an application for Sports Director submitted in 2007, Smith wrote, “WRGW has meant the world to me…Though there are hours of grueling, unpaid work, I feel almost compelled to lead the department and give back to the station that has meant so much to me for the past three years.” Though he did not get the position, his legacy of hard work and dedication live on with the members of the sports department today, and will continue to live on thanks to this dedication.
This past Friday, with friends and family in attendance, a dedication ceremony was held in the Marvin Center for the newly named Steven E. Smith Broadcasting Center. The dedication, hosted by Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski, revealed a plaque and a picture hanging outside the door of the broadcasting center, which will hang in its place for as long as the station remains there.
After the official dedication, attendees were asked to share reflections of the accomplished life that Smith lived. Smith’s father, Dr. Matthew Smith, mother, Mrs. Rhonda Smith, and brother, Jared Smith, opened up the reflections talking about Steven’s love for sports, broadcasting, and the station which gave him his first broadcasting opportunity. Mrs. Smith spoke about the footprints that Steven left behind on the people that he touched. This became incredibly apparent as friends of Steven in attendance, including former roommates, broadcast partners, classmates and a family friend from his childhood, took the microphone to share stories and fond memories of Steven’s passion for sports, radio, and friendship.
The next day, the George Washington Women’s basketball team played host to the #21 Dayton Flyers and won 88-79, earning them the 4th seed and a double-bye in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. It was the first game to be produced from the just-dedicated Steven E. Smith Broadcasting Center. Before the game, WRGW Sports aired a story about the life of Steven Smith and the dedication of the studio. Alumnus Nkwa Asonye produced the story, with audio provided by Dr. Smith (listen below). The story re-aired before the Men’s game Sunday against rival George Mason, a game that GW won 66-58.
From this day forward, every song played, every news story broken, every trade discussed, every match analyzed, every slam dunk scored, and every GW basketball game broadcasted on WRGW will be produced from the Steven E. Smith Broadcasting Center, and we couldn’t be more honored by that distinction.
From all of us at WRGW and WRGW Sports we would like to thank everyone who attended the dedication on Friday and the GW Alumni House for organizing the event. Finally, we would especially like to thank Steven’s family for ensuring that future broadcasters on the station can get the same experience from it as Steven so cherished and for their extreme support and generosity. Thank you so much.
WRGW SPORTS DIRECTOR
George Washington posted their highest margin of victory since 2006 in a dominating 94-50 victor over the Delaware State Hornets last Tuesday night. The victory extended the men’s winning to four games heading into the Wooden Legacy tournament in Orange County, California this weekend.
The highlight reel was loaded for the Colonials in this game, as they were able to net 10 3-pointers and throw down 9 thunder-jams against the Hornets. Senior forward Isiah Armwood was the game’s leading scorer, scoring 17 points while grabbing 5 rebounds. Sophomore Keith Woods and Freshman Tom Pierce had the call of a monster alley-oop slam by Armwood for WRGW Sports.
Newcomers Nick Griffin and Maurice Creek lead the way for the Colonials from deep as they were able to shoot a combined 7-7 from 3 point range. After the game Griffin described the tandem on twitter as the “#SplashBrothers”.
Six total players scored in double digits for the Colonials. Along with the three already mentioned, sophomores Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Paris Maragkos rounded out the top scorers for GW.
After jumping out to a 54-19 lead at half, the Colonials were comfortably in the driver’s seat. In the second half, Head Coach Mike Lonergan was able to play a lot of his back of the bench players. Maragkos was able to score a career high 10 points and freshman Skyler White completed 2 free throws for his first career points as a Colonial.
The Hornets were lead by 15 points from center Kendall Gray and 11 points from Tyshawn Bell in an overall poor shooting effort for the team (17-51 FG).
The Colonials take their 4-0 record across the country to Southern California for their biggest test of the young season in the Wooden Legacy. They will play the reigning ACC champions and a Sweet 16 team in the Miami Hurricanes at 2 o’clock EST on Thanksgiving day. The rest of the Wooden Legacy field includes #25 Marquette, Arizona State, Creighton, San Diego State, College of Charleston and, host for the first two rounds of the tournament, California State Fullerton. After playing in Fullerton on Thursday and Friday, the final round of the tournament will be held on Sunday at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Stay tuned to WRGW Sports for complete coverage of what should be a very exciting Wooden Legacy tournament. Be sure to follow @WRGWSports on Twitter for schedule updates and broadcast links. Senior Tim Riordan and Junior Mike Martenak will be covering all of the games live from Orange County on WRGW Sports – Colonials Radio Central.
WRGW SPORTS DIRECTOR
The Men started off the season on the right foot with three impressive victories, including a 100 point performance and a come from behind road victory to a tough opponent.
Radford 54 George Washington 76
The Men’s squad opened up their 100th season against the Radford Highlanders of the Big South Conference on two Fridays ago. The grills for the home opener tailgate were hot, but the GW shooters were even hotter, especially Kethan Savage who led the team with 18 points on the way to a definitive 76-54 victory.
Radford got off to a quick 4-1 lead, but a run by the Colonials, including a Nemanja Mikic three pointer, put them ahead and they wouldn’t trail for the rest of the game. Here is senior Tim Riordan and Sophomore Zach Simon with the call for WRGW Sports.
The Colonials took a 13 point lead into halftime, after a Maurice Creek buzzer beater put the Colonials up 39-26. Creek would finish the game with 12 points.
The second half was led by Kethan Savage, who had no trouble carving up the Highlander defense and getting to the bucket with ease. He finished the game with a career high in points (18), rebounds (6), assists (5), steals (5) and minutes (23) in an all-around effort by the sophomore off the bench. He was named the Player of the game and would later go on to be named Colonial of the Week.
Isiah Armwood struggled from the floor (0-5 FG), but still scored 7 points from the free throw line and pulled down a game high 12 rebounds. The new look Kevin Larsen, who shed 16 pounds this offseason, scored 16 points on 6-8 shooting. Defensively, the Colonials were able to hold the Highlander to just 35.7% shooting. Ya Ya Anderson led the way for Radford with 15 points and 3 assists.
Maine 81 George Washington 108
It seems fitting that in the 100th season of George Washington men’s basketball the team would eclipse 100 points for the first time since December of 2005, a feat that GW accomplished on Tuesday night, defeating the Maine Black Bears 108-81.
It was an extremely balanced performance for the Colonials as five players scored in double digits, including 13 from Nemanja Mickic and Kevin Larsen, 18 for Kethan Savage and Isiah Armwood, and 19 points for Maurice Creek.
Creek hit 4 3-pointers in the firs half en route to match his career high of 5 3-point field goals in the game. Here is freshman Jack Linnehan and sophomore Alex Hausner with the call for WRGW Sports.
Going into halftime with a 56-46 lead, the 1448 person crowd who came to this Tuesday night game was buzzing with anticipation of a 100 point game.
That wasn’t the only thing the crowd had to cheer for in the second half, as an emphatic block by Savage led to a fast break going the other way and a highlight reel slam dunk for Armwood.
The Black Bears, in their first all time game against George Washington, were lead by an impressive performance by Shaun Lawton, who had 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists.
The century mark was finally reached with 3:09 left to go in the game. Kethan Savage drived the ball to the hoop and scored the layup that would put 3 digits on the Smith Center scoreboard for the first time since 2005.
George Washington 75 Manhattan 72
The Colonials were tested for the first time in their 100th season on the road Saturday night against Manhattan College. A GW was able to overcome a 13 point first half deficit to defeat the Jaspers 75-72, lead by a huge second half performance by Graduate Student Maurice Creek.
GW came out strong in the first half, controlling the first three minutes and getting out to a 9-5 lead with the help of a Creek 3-pointer. Here is senior Tim Riordan and junior Mike Martenak on the call
Some poor substitutions gave the lead and momentum to the Jaspers. With the entire second unit on the court, GW struggled to do much of anything right, playing sloppy on both sides of the ball. Even the starters couldn’t slow the momentum of the Jaspers as they went on a 16-3 run midway through the first half to make the score 29-16. The Colonials were able to steady the ship with solid offensive play from senior Isiah Armwood and sophomore Kevin Larsen, but the Jaspers still took a 39-30 lead into halftime.
The tide turned quickly out of the locker room as the Colonials went on a 15-5 run in 4:21 to take a 45-44 lead. Sophomore Patricio Garino, playing his first game of the season returning from a fractured finger injury, scored the layup to put the Colonials ahead.
The second twenty minutes were all Maurice Creek. Creek scored 24 of his 27 points in the second half, nearly half of the team’s total second half points. He was 6-9 from the field, 4-6 from beyond the arc, and a crucial 8-8 from the free throw line, on a night when the team shot just 61.5% from the charity strip. Creek’s performance was highlighted by two clutch 3-pointers in a row to give the team a 7 point lead with 11:42 to go, their largest lead of the game at that time. Listen in as the second shot gets GW fans chanting in the away arena.
The lead was never given back to the Jaspers, though they came within 2 points twice in the closing 2 minutes. In a crucial possession with under 30 seconds left to go, Savage milked the shot-clock down to single digits and then hit a jumper that would put the game out of reach for the Jaspers.
The Jaspers were lead by a single-handed performance by senior guard George Beamon. Beamon who put up a season-high 34 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in the losing effort.
Sophomore Kevin Larsen recorded his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Colonials return home Tuesday night to face off against Deleware St. in their final tune up game before The Wooden Legacy in Anaheim, CA over Thanksgiving break. Junior Keith Woods and freshman Thomas Pierce will have the call from the Smith Center. Tune into this game and all GW basketball games live on WRGW Sports – Colonials Radio Central at wrgwsports.com.