If there is one word to describe the GW women’s basketball team it might be resilient. After a handful of unexpected losses early on this season, the Colonials were able to reel off a string of wins to get itself back on track.
So when the No. 20/17 Colonials (AP, ESPN/USA Today) were up only two points at halftime against La Salle at Smith Center Wednesday night, there might have been good reason to worry. Less than week ago, they lost to Temple on the road, and last week, Rhode Island played them close to the finish.
The Colonials (15-4, 3-1 Atlantic 10) rebounded hard in the second half, though, to walk away with a 50-32 victory over the Explorers in front of 894. Still, head coach Joe McKeown said his team is still a “half-step off its game” early in conference play, especially on offense.
“We’re just not shooting the ball that well,” he said. “We’ve got to get our offense going. Most coaches will tell you defense wins championships, but we’ve always been a great defensive team. We’ve got to put the ball in the basket.”
Junior Jessica Adair led GW with 14 points and classmate Antelia Parrish helped with 13, but no other Colonial finished in double figures. The Colonials’ 50 points were well short of the upper 60s, which is where McKeown said he wants his team to be.
La Salle’s Carlene Hightower led her team with 11 points and admitted that GW had the answer for any La Salle offensive, but also said she was proud of her team’s defensive effort against the highly-touted Colonials.
“I think that we handled Adair and Sarah-Jo and all them pretty well,” Hightower said. “They didn’t do what they wanted to do. We handled the game plan and they got frustrated by that.”
After the game, Adair said the team’s on-court chemistry was one aspect of the Colonials’ play that needed to be improved, and McKeown echoed that sentiment.
“We’re just not in sync. We’ve had a lot of injuries,” McKeown said. We haven’t had a lot of practices where we’ve had everybody on the floor, to where you’re really going at each other and there’s competition. I think that’s the biggest challenge for us.”
On the other end of the court, GW’s defensive effort held La Salle to the lowest point total of any Colonials’ conference opponent since 1992. The Colonials had five blocks and 10 steals, while holding the Explorers to 28 percent shooting from the floor.
And if the last two games are any indication, GW will have plenty of chances to continue to display their defensive prowess. Both Temple and La Salle sported an offensive scheme that involved milking the shot clock and forcing the Colonials to spend a lot of time in front of their own basket.
“When you get a couple shot clock violations on a team in the first half, it means they’re trying to hold the ball for 20 or 25 seconds, so you’ve gotta play defense the whole possession. It’s hard to play defense for 30 seconds in our game,” McKeown said, adding that the game’s slow tempo might have affected his team’s rhythm offensively as well.
GW’s next test comes Saturday in the form of Charlotte, the only A-10 team still undefeated in conference play. Tip-off for that contest is at 2 p.m. at Smith Center.