For two years, redshirt sophomore Ivy Abiona sat.
As a freshman, she wasn’t ready to contribute regularly, then she was forced to miss last season after tearing her ACL.
So, it would be hard to blame the New Jersey native if she was frustrated after being taken out of the starting lineup for strategic reasons before GW’s 66-60 win over St. Joseph’s. If it did bother her, she didn’t show it.
Abiona scored 11 points and pulled down nine rebounds in just 20 minutes during the Colonials’ (8-8, 1-1 Atlantic 10) win, which broke a four-game losing streak. Showing a mix of strength and finesse, the 6-foot-2 forward looked comfortable in her new role.
“She’s a special player, a special athlete,” GW head coach Mike Bozeman said. “She’s making a big time adjustment – she played very little her first year and sat out her second year. But she works so hard. I bet when you guys are home in bed, Ivy’s in the gym. And when you wake up in the morning, she’s in the gym.”
Though Abiona did acknowledge that she is starting to feel “more comfortable” on the court, she was quick to deflect credit for her success onto her teammates. Seven GW players scored seven points or more for the Colonials.
Bozeman said he replaced Abiona with freshman guard Tara Booker in the starting lineup in order to prevent the Hawks from double-teaming senior center Jessica Adair. By having sharp-shooters Booker and senior Antelia Parrish in the game, Bozeman hoped to force opponents to stay matched up one to one, helping Adair. The strategy worked for the most part, as Adair scored nine points.
The win was also Bozeman’s first conference victory as head coach, though he downplayed the significance of that achievement.
“I just wanted a victory, I didn’t care if we were playing Mount Calvary Middle School,” he said. “I never looked at it as a conference game. We’ve been playing so many tough games I just wanted to win. I think our team’s intensity is really impressing me. It felt good.”
But not all was well for GW, who shot just 53.3 percent from the free-throw line and made only 28.6 percent of its free throws. Bozeman also said he was upset with what he perceived to be his team’s lack of focus down the stretch, when St. Joe’s briefly threatened to come back from a double-digit deficit.
St. Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin said her team struggled to come back after letting GW go on an 11-0 run in the middle of the game. Griffin blamed her team’s inability to make close shots as the reason for the loss.
“I think it was a tale of probably 38 minutes we played very good basketball and two minutes at the end of the first half we self-destructed,” Griffin said. “We spent a whole lot of energy to come back but it just wasn’t enough.”
GW next plays Saturday at Fordham, where the Colonials hope to earn their first road victory of the season.