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.
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.
Women’s Basketball Writer
CINCINNATI, Ohio—Senior forward Megan Nipe’s open look from beyond the arc with one second on the clock rimmed out, ending GW’s shot at taking the Xavier Musketeers to overtime and ending the game with a 65-62 Xavier win.
The Colonials got into that situation after Xavier’s best free throw shooter, junior Shatyra Hawkes, missed two straight with 10 seconds left to allow graduate student forward Tara Booker to bring the ball down the court and set up a potential game-tying look. They passed it around near the top of the key until they found the open shot, but it missed off the back of the rim.
The Colonials, after being down at halftime, led for most of the second half. The first half saw Xavier, one of the conference’s best three point shooting teams make four threes. The Colonials went on a 9-2 run in the second half and did a good job of stopping the threes and stopping the penetration of Xavier. GW was able to get the lead up to seven, behind the career-high four three-pointers from senior guard Danni Jackson. However, the defense that was doing so well stopping the Musketeers was doing poorly in terms of not fouling Xavier. Sending a good free throw shooting team to the line often is not good, and landing in the double bonus with over six minutes left in the second half does not help with that. Xavier grabbed the lead for the first time with a three-point play with 1:35 to go and did not look back.
The difference in the game was a glaring number on the stat sheet: 34. That is how many free throw attempts Xavier got, nailing 26 of those tries. With 40% of their points coming from the charity stripe, Xavier’s offense did not need to be potent because the 22 GW fouls proved to be enough. GW shot 15 more field goals and made nine more of those shots than the Musketeers, but the foul shots proved to be just enough to put Xavier over the top.
Danni Jackson led the way for the Colonials, notching her second-highest scoring mark, getting 18 points on 7-15 shooting. Megan Nipe also had that shooting mark, scoring 15. Grad student Tara Booker pulled down double-digit boards for the third time in six games, however GW was outrebounded 38-36. They fall to 2-12 when they lose the battle on the boards.
Xavier’s lineup is smaller in height, but they were able to win the rebounding battle on the backs of forwards Amber Gray and Jessica Pachko, who combined for 20 rebounds. Their sheer physicality and size inside allowed them to out-muscle Booker, Sara Mostafa, and Shi-Heria Shipp inside. The star for the Musketeers, however, was the 5’10” freshman guard Jenna Crittendon, who played 34 minutes off the bench and scored a career-high 19 points. She used her size to work her way inside, but also knocked down some key outside jumpers.
Coach Jonathan Tsipis talked in his postgame interview with WRGW about how the team needs to learn how to close, himself included, as games like this are what the Colonials will see in the conference tournament. With the win, the Musketeers have punched their ticket to Philadelphia for the conference tournament. GW is now tied with Xavier and Richmond for seventh with a half-game lead over Saint Louis, who plays Dayton on Thursday. Xavier now holds the tiebreaker over GW, which means GW needs a win and a Xavier loss (to 3-25 UMass) to get the seventh seed, avoid the 8/9 game, and avoid a second round matchup against national powerhouse Dayton. Butler’s tight win over Temple secured the sixth seed for them, who is likely to finish their conference schedule undefeated.
GW (12-15, 6-7 A-10) will say farewell to their seniors on Sunday at home against the Saint Louis Billikens in their season finale. Tip is at 2 p.m., and you can catch all of the action on WRGW District Radio – Colonials Radio Central at gwradio.com.
Women’s Basketball Writer
WASHINGTON — The Colonials earned a spot in the Atlantic 10 tournament, staving off a St. Bonaventure comeback and beating the Bonnies 57-52, behind a double-double by senior Megan Nipe and one of their best rebounding performances of the season.
Leading by as much as 14 in the second half, St. Bonaventure chipped away at the lead, bringing it to within four. Bonnies junior forward Doris Ortega helped lead the comeback, scoring 10 in the second half. A layup by grad student forward Tara Booker with 39 seconds left helped put the game away for the Colonials. Execution in the closing minutes, aside from a few key missed free throws by Megan Nipe, was a big part of this win for GW.
Nipe recorded her first double-double of her career, scoring 10 and pulling down a career-high 13 rebounds. “It’s really just a personal focus of making sure I crash the boards every single time a shot goes up,” said Nipe after the game. The 5’7” sophomore Chakecia Miller also tallied double-digit rebounds, with six of those coming off of the offensive glass, allowing for second chances down the stretch. Tara Booker and seniors Danni Jackson and Shi-Heria Shipp finished in double figures along with Nipe, marking the sixth game four or more Colonials scored 10 or more.
GW out-rebounded the Bonnies 49-35, giving them their second-best margin of conference play. The rebounding advantage really helped them with their recurring problem of stopping a transition scorer. “You can stop a team that likes to go in transition if you can control the backboards,” said head coach Jonathan Tsipis after the game. Megan Nipe “knew the game would come down to who won the boards,” and GW being able to tie their season high with 20 offensive boards helped in their win. GW scored 14 second-chance points, taking advantage of their aggressive play in the post, by both the guards and the forwards.
GW gave one of their most energetic first half performances of the season on Sunday, which translated into success on the defensive end forcing poor possessions for the Bonnies, ending in several shot clock violations and questionable shot selection. Evidence of the energy was the leading rebounders for GW at the half: Not Mostafa or Booker but Nipe, Miller, and freshman guard Alexis Chandler.
The offense was clicking at times, with Jackson making some impressive jumpers in the second half, but it was not a consistent performance. Shipp started 3-3 while the rest of the team started just 0-5, but Megan Nipe knocked down two threes as part of an 8-0 GW run.
The problem of not being able to get put-backs and close jumpers to fall on a regular basis was apparent, with grad student center Sara Mostafa finishing 0-5. However due to the small size of the Bonnies, with the tallest starter measuring 6’1”, freshman Anjaleace White and Sara Mostafa played just a combined 15 minutes.
The smaller look for GW was great on defense. Booker or Shipp would act as a lynchpin on the inside, holding the defense together while the energetic play of the guards was often enough to rattle this St. Bonaventure team that is now on an eight-game losing streak. On the offensive end, having just one big in the post was more than enough, especially when the outside shooting was hot for the Colonials.
The win gives the Colonials a spot in the Atlantic 10 tournament in Philadelphia on March 8-10. That will not stop the focus of GW in these last two games. They can finish anywhere between 6th and 11th in the conference, and they will put out their best effort in this final stretch. “No matter the records, you’re playing teams that are fighting for their life to continue their season,” Tsipis said of these late-season tilts. Tsipis said he wants his team playing the best basketball they can going into the tournament.
The Colonials (12-14, 6-6 A10) continue their push for a .500 finish and a high tournament seed on the road against the red-hot Xavier Musketeers (11-15, 5-7 A10) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. You can catch all the action from Cincinnati on WRGW Sports – Colonials Radio Central at gwradio.com.