It was a three-point game when graduate student forward Tara Booker released her three-point shot.
It fell, putting the Colonials up by six. Twenty seconds later, she drilled another. GW was now up by nine, a crucial widening of its lead in a game that had been a tight contest throughout.
Booker’s two treys sparked a massive scoring run for the rest of her team, providing momentum for GW to decisively close out a 74-57 victory over La Salle. They were two important baskets, and they were examples of exactly the type of role head coach Jonathan Tsipis expects from his upperclassmen.
“We did a good job finding her in the first one, and we were able to come right back,” Tsipis said. “It gave us life. It allowed us to be more aggressive in transition.”
From the outset, it was clear that the game would be a defensive battle, neither team able to control the ball well out of the gates. GW had 17 turnovers over play, while La Salle had 15. The game stayed tight through most of the first half. The Explorers switched between different zones to try to confuse the Colonials and disrupt their shooting.
Still, GW was able to take a small four point lead into halftime. The advantage came off the strength of 41.7 percent shooting, and the team finding a mismatch down low with senior forward Shi-Heria Shipp, who was able to put away a number of baskets for the Colonials.
“She got us going. She got us that lead toward the end of the half,” Tsipis said. “It was just a matter of closing possessions with our rebounding.”
Though play was tight to open the second half, thanks to Booker’s back-to-back treys GW widened its lead with a significant scoring run, finally firing on all offensive cylinders. The Colonials shot 51.4 percent over the second half, including 80 percent from behind the arc.
The team had a balanced scoring attack, with five players finishing in double digits. Booker led the way with 13 points and seven boards, while graduate student forward Sara Mostafa posted a double-double with 11 points and 12 boards. Shipp finished with 12 points, while senior guard Danni Jackson and sophomore guard Chackecia Miller had 11 each.
“I think that makes us much more dangerous,” Tsipis said. “It’s hard to gameplan against multiple scorers.”
Defensively, GW tried to control La Salle’s ability to get out in transition, setting traps in transition that slowed the Explorers’ ball movement.
The Colonials opened the game in a man-to-man defense, but seemed to struggle with some of their matchups, leaving La Salle shooters open. Switching into a 2-3 zone, the team seemed more comfortable, challenging their opponents with greater ease. With leading Explorer scorer Brittney Wilson sidelined, La Salle turned to Ebony Jones. But Jones found herself in foul trouble, limiting her play.
“We had talked about playing a bit more zone just because, overall, they were a team that relied more on jumpers. In that aspect we felt like the zone would help us keep the ball in front better,” Tsipis said. “I just thought our activity level in the zone was really good.”
The Colonials didn’t relent on their pressure throughout the game, holding the Explorers to 32.8 percent shooting. Earning a slim 41-37 rebounding edge, GW tightly controlled the paint, picking up a 40-22 scoring edge. The Colonial bench also far outperformed La Salle’s, scoring 18 points while the Explorers had zero contributions aside from its starting five.
The victory was an important one for a GW squad that suffered a crushing double overtime loss against Duquesne. Defeating La Salle was a win that revitalized the Colonials’ energy, giving them more momentum as they head into the last month of Atlantic 10 play.
“It’s huge. You’re definitely worried about that ‘we should have won the game [feeling].’ It was just fun because we came out, we didn’t play great but I didn’t feel like we put our heads down,” Tsipis said. “And you hope, when you go through a close game like that, sometimes the best thing to do is get back out. I wanted to get back out and play Thursday.”