Women’s Basketball Writer
WASHINGTON – In the final home game for graduate students Tara Booker, Sara Mostafa, and Brooke Wilson, emotions were high. With ceremonies honoring the players before the game and their families in the audience, the Colonials put on a good show to help Mostafa, Booker, and Wilson say goodbye, snagging a 68-55 win over the Saint Louis Billikens and finishing 7-7 in Atlantic 10 play.
The Colonials played some of their best basketball of the season in the first half, scoring 42 points and shooting 63 percent from the field. Senior guard Megan Nipe scored 16 of her career-high 20 points in the half, shooting 7-7 from the field. The first half also saw the bigs for GW, including Mostafa and Booker, do a fantastic job of keeping some of the more physical Saint Louis players like Mallory Eggert and Jenna Mueller at bay. This was key in GW winning the rebounding battle 22-13; coming into the game, Saint Louis allowed the fewest rebounds per game this season with 32, but GW was able to pull down 43, including 16 on the offensive glass. It was that hustle that allowed GW to go into halftime with a 19-point lead, ending the half on an improbably-made three-pointer by guard Danni Jackson.
The Billikens still had some fight in them, however. GW led by as much as 23 but by the middle of the second half, Saint Louis had cut the lead to seven, behind Jenna Mueller and Jacy Bradley’s scoring. The vaunted Colonials defense, which had done a good job stopping penetration and passes into the post became a bit looser as Saint Louis’ shots began to fall. The momentum was temporary, as the lead at halftime was insurmountable. The last basket for the Billikens came with 2:40 to go in the game, as GW was able to keep control in the final stretch.
Despite playing much more poorly in the second half than in the first half, the Colonials still put out a performance to be proud of. “You hope your team [in February] is playing their best basketball of the year,” said Coach Jonathan Tsipis, and he has seen that out of his team this month. GW shot 48.3 percent on the day, mostly through finding open holes in the Saint Louis defense.
Megan Nipe finished as the leading scorer for the Colonials with 20 points, while Danni Jackson put in 17 points and four assists. Sara Mostafa ended her Smith Center career with 13 points and eight rebounds. Tara Booker and Brooke Wilson were unable to score in their last game in Foggy Bottom, the latter due to an ACL injury that came against Virginia Tech, which was the last game in which Booker was scoreless.
The Colonials are done in the Smith Center and with the regular season, but the postseason rolls on. GW will play in the first round of their tournament on Friday, and this team is ready. “We’ve played tough teams, we’ve been in tough situations, and I think we’ve learned together and we know what to do,” said Mostafa after this game, and this team is ready for their matchup in Philadelphia. “Each day of practice is to be the most prepared team possible,” said Tsipis, who is proud of the fact that the team is playing for something in March.
GW (13-15, 7-7 Atlantic 10) have earned the number eight seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, pitting them against ninth-seeded Richmond (16-14, 6-8 Atlantic 10) in the opening round on Friday at 11:30 a.m. in the Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena on the campus of St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. You can catch the action starting at 11:15 on WRGW District Radio – Colonials Radio Central at gwradio.com.
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The summer of 2011 brought big changes to the men’s basketball program as they made a somewhat surprising coaching change by replacing long time head coach Karl Hobbs with current coach Mike Lonergan.
One summer later, the women’s team made a change of its own.
Out is Mike Bozeman, who was let go after four seasons at the helm. In his place steps Jonathan Tsipis, national runner-up Notre Dame’s former associate head coach and recruiting coordinator. As a nationally sought after coaching candidate, Tsipis is a huge get for a program that has struggled to return to excellence ever since long-time head coach Joe McKeown left Foggy Bottom for the head job at Northwestern.
Coach Tsipis will be aided even further by the presence of a veteran squad led by GW’s two Atlantic 10 preseason All-Conference Third Team members: forward Tara Booker and guard Danni Jackson. Both Booker and Jackson led the team in scoring during the 2011-12 campaign, each averaging 12.0 points per game. Booker was also the team leader in five other categories, including rebounding (7.0), blocks (1.1), and field goal percentage (.429). Jackson comes off a season in which she led the team with three assists per game and set the fourth-best single season mark in school history with a 85.7% free throw percentage.
Graduate student Sara Mostafa also makes her return to the court after missing all but eight games last season due to injury. The six-foot-five center was a force for the Colonials, averaging just under 10 points and six rebounds per game before breaking her hand during a practice in preparation for their matchup against crosstown rival Georgetown. Sophomore guard Chakecia Miller also returns to the fold after starting the final 12 games of last season and finishing third in the Atlantic 10 in steals with 2.9 per game. Seniors Shi-Heria Shipp and Megan Nipe provide depth in the backcourt and redshirt senior Brooke Wilson bolsters the frontcourt.
Coach Tsipis also managed to keep an impressive recruiting class from leaving to complement the veterans on the roster. The most notable additions are those of freshmen forwards Anjaleace White and DeLacy Anderson. White comes to Foggy Bottom after averaging 14.3 points and 11.2 rebounds per game during her senior season and being named the 2012 Gatorade Delaware Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Anderson was named the top forward in Illinois by Max Preps after leading her Bolingbrook High School squad to three straight state titles from 2009 to 2011. Both players add much needed height and depth to the frontcourt and are expected to contribute right away.
A pair of freshmen from the state of Texas in Aaliyah Brown and Alexis Chandler are also expected to make an early impact. Brown was a 2012 McDonald’s All-America nominee and a four-time All-District selection at Clear Springs High School. Chandler was a four-time All-District honoree, setting the single season assists record at two different high schools.
In a preseason poll of the Atlantic 10’s head coaches, the Colonials were picked to finish eighth out of 16 teams. While it may be easy for many pundits to discount this GW squad based on past success – or the lack thereof – on paper this team has all the makings of a squad that could surprise this season. They bring back many experienced players who have proven to be able to put up good numbers for the Buff and Blue when healthy. It starts to look scary good when combined with the talent that each of Tsipis’ newcomers bring to Foggy Bottom.
With that said, sometimes the biggest upgrade is the one made off the court. A team can have all the talent in the world but if they don’t buy into the head coach’s system and philosophy, chances are success will be elusive. This team is undoubtedly talented, but perhaps the addition of Jonathan Tsipis at the helm is just what this team needs to finally bring a winning product back to the Charles E. Smith Center. If the Colonials can stay healthy and if they take to Coach Tsipis’ system quickly, this team could be far better than a middle-of-the-road team in the Atlantic 10.
GW will host Wingate in an exhibition matchup at the Charles E. Smith Center on Sunday, November 4th at 5 p.m. before officially tipping off their regular season at home on Friday, November 9th at 7 p.m. against the University of Texas-Arlington. Both games can be heard on your flagship station for George Washington Women’s Basketball, WRGW District Radio.