Of the four halves the women’s basketball team played Thursday against Coppin State and Sunday against North Texas, head coach Mike Bozeman was really only happy with two of them.
Thursday night in the Colonials’ home opener, GW dominated Coppin State from the opening tip and led 41-17 at halftime. In the second half, though, Bozeman’s squad slowed down and went cold, shooting 28 percent worse from the floor and making just one of eight three-pointers after connecting on six of seven from beyond the arc in the first half.
“It feels good to get the first victory under our belt. The second half was one to grow on. We gotta get better with the energy and the focus coming out of halftime,” Bozeman said Thursday night after his team’s 63-42 win. “The first half is the way we want to play, the second half we have to grow on and get better at closing out.”
Three GW players – sophomores Megan Nipe, Tiana Myers and Tara Booker – scored 11 points each against the Eagles. Junior guard Kye Allums was the high scorer for the Colonials, with 12 points in just 15 minutes of action.
Allums – a transgender individual who identifies as a male but biologically remains a female – struggled in GW’s first two games of the season at the Best Buy Classic in Minneapolis, less than an hour away from his hometown of Hugo, Minn. Seeing Allums rebound from the disappointing performances to open the season was encouraging for Bozeman.
“I think Kye let the game come to him a lot better than he did in Minnesota. I mean, that’s a lot of pressure, come on,” Bozeman said. “I didn’t really know what to expect, I’m sure he didn’t know what to expect out there. The adrenaline was flowing. He looked a lot more comfortable out there [against Coppin State] and the team was giving him the ball in positions that would allow him to be successful.”
Sunday, it was the first half that gave Bozeman and the Colonials a headache. GW, which beat North Texas 84-82 on the road last season, trailed for much of the first half. Several Colonials, including redshirt senior Ivy Abiona and junior Sara Mostafa, struggled to finish plays around the basket, and sophomore point guard Danni Jackson had some issues connecting with her teammates on passes.
GW (2-2) managed to take the lead seconds before halftime, bringing a 25-24 lead into the locker room. Bozeman said he challenged Abiona during the intermission to step up in the second half with the knowledge that if the redshirt senior played better, her teammates would follow.
“I actually challenged Ivy. I challenged her because she is a leader of our team in that locker room and they feed off of her energy so much. I just thought that she could raise her energy level and her efficiency around the basket,” he said. “I simply told her that that’s her responsibility and I wanted to see her do it.”
Abiona responded with seven points and seven rebounds in the second half, giving her a double-double for the game with 10 points and 11 boards, providing a spark for the Colonials on their way to a 62-53 win over the Mean Green. Sophomore Danni Jackson came alive, too, scoring nine of her 15 points in the second half and slowing down her game enough to cut down on her turnovers.
“I play a million miles per hour anyway, so I really can’t stop that,” Jackson said.
Jackson said that her increased offensive production was a product of opportunities she saw in the North Texas defense and not of any preconceived plan to score more frequently. On an afternoon when most of GW’s usual offensive threats were quiet, Bozeman said he was happy to see Jackson step into a role as a scorer.
“She’s gonna feed off of what the team needs. We needed her point production tonight, and that’s what she gave us,” Bozeman said. “If Tiana’s hitting, if Megan Nipe is stroking it, if Tara Booker is stroking it, then she may just feed off of that and pile up the assists. But, we needed her to be that scorer.”
The Colonials will have a long break between games over the Thanksgiving holiday and won’t take the court again until Nov. 30 at the Smith Center against Ohio. Bozeman said the Colonials have yet to play a complete game so far this season. There’s still room for improvement and consistency, the Colonials head coach said, but with two wins in the books, Bozeman will be able to relax a little bit more during his Thanksgiving break with the knowledge that his team is moving in the right direction.
“That’s part of the maturation process of my team, is to put that 40 minutes together,” Bozeman said. “To be honest with you, I wouldn’t want to be peaking right now. We’re about to go into Thanksgiving, and we could have gone into Thanksgiving 1-3, which would have been a bad Thanksgiving. I would’ve burned the turkey. But we also could have gone into Thanksgiving 3-1. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re better than we were.”