With the A-10 tournament looming, the Colonials found themselves playing catch-up this week to build team unity after a string of injuries left the bench depleted for much of the season.
While most teams had the entirety of the regular season to develop team rhythm, the GW squad, plagued all year by injuries, is just now beginning to find its stride as recovering players return to court.
The reintegration of players was an additional challenge for the Colonials that the rest of the A-10 didn’t face, head coach Mike Bozeman said, but with the extra practice time this week, he believes GW should be ready to go by Friday’s first tournament game against Duquesne.
“We’re doing a lot of full-court simulations of game situations and allowing the players to get in a flow with each other,” Bozeman said. “We played well against Saint [Joseph’s], because we had those two days before to do what I’m trying to do right now – to try to build some chemistry and get these guys playing together, because they haven’t played together all season.”
Over their last few games, the Colonials have witnessed a fall in execution as returning players rotate into the game. The infusion of these players, largely due to their lack of minutes because of injury, has led to a visible lack of communication on the court, Bozeman said. One of Bozeman’s biggest keys for success against the Dukes will be achieving smoother player rotations, he said.
The Colonials will also need to play with a one-play-at-a-time mentality to be successful, Bozeman added. Though developing a game-long rhythm will be crucial, making the most of every possession and scoring opportunity, from hitting free throws to diving for loose balls, will be similarly critical as GW looks for victory.
“If you look at our overall stats, we average losing games by one point,” Bozeman said. “If we capitalize on even one more possession, we should be able to make up that one point. They see that they are so close, and that encourages them.”
As GW’s locker room looks for the key chemistry, members of the team are highly conscious that the first tournament game has significant meaning, beyond the fact that it’s a win-or-go-home situation.
Senior guard Tiana Myers, who will be playing in her last-ever A-10 tournament this weekend, may also be playing her final game if GW fails to take down Duquesne.
“The sense of urgency is present like never before. In a basketball sense, I look at Friday as I may not have a tomorrow, or a next time, and definitely not a next year as it relates to college ball,” Myers said. “There’s only right now. This is a pivotal game for us. This is what we play for.”
All of the Colonials roster, not just the seniors, are ready to make a statement this weekend, Bozeman said. Though GW suffered a 26-point loss to Duquesne Jan. 21, that game was a clear example of the depth challenges the team faced, suiting up just six players against the Dukes.
Now, the Colonials face Duquesne with a longer bench and the season on the line. The stakes are high, but so is the team’s confidence level, junior guard Danni Jackson said.
In the A-10 tournament, Jackson said, every team has a clean slate, and the Colonials are prepared to capitalize off of theirs.
“I’m ready to play and make a statement,” Jackson said. “Everyone is now 0-0 in the conference, so this is basically a new beginning for us.”
Bozeman, as coach and leader of GW’s program, also understands the importance of succeeding at this level. For him, this year’s A-10 tournament could be a chance to revitalize the team and restore it to previous heights.
Despite the Colonials’ 11-17 regular-season record, Bozeman remains confident in the ability of his players and the strength of his game plan. The head coach, who is in the last year of his contract, said the team hit “speed bumps” along the way, but are heading into postseason play determined to prove their strength. GW is “ready to have a breakthrough,” he said.
“If you did a poll around the league, everybody from the top of our conference to the bottom of our conference has commented on how hard my girls play,” Bozeman said. “There’s certain things I can’t have control of. I can’t control injury. But I think this is one of the better coaching jobs I’ve done.”
This post was updated on March 2, 2012 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported in the caption one of the women's basketball players as Chakecia Miller. The player is Chelisa Painter.