Flyers hand Colonials eighth-straight loss

DAYTON, Oh. – Women’s basketball head coach Mike Bozeman has said he’s unhappy with his team’s mental focus this season. But Wednesday night’s 80-64 loss to Dayton, the team’s eighth-straight, proved the Colonials (5-12, 0-3 Atlantic 10) are facing an uphill physical battle as well.

GW took the court against the Flyers with five players sitting out due to injury. By halftime, they had added one more, junior Kristin Aldridge, who went out with a shoulder injury. The game also aggravated sophomore Brooke Wilson’s pre-existing shoulder condition. While Wilson was able to return to play with a taped shoulder, Aldridge never returned to the game, taking away a sixth player from an already depleted roster.

“Kristin, she has a dislocated shoulder. I don’t know to what degree. Brooke’s is to a lesser degree,” Bozeman said after the game, adding that Aldridge’s return to play will be contingent on the reports given by athletic trainers over the next few days.

Her injury is a loss that the Colonials can ill afford. The remaining players struggled Wednesday night to battle through fatigue on the court. Bozeman recognizes the challenges that a diminished roster poses to his team.

“It’s hard to get any kind of rhythm [on the court without a full roster],” Bozeman said. “I got to give the girls credit. They were very focused, their effort today on the scale of one to 10 was a 13. It’s hard when you have so many injuries.”

Throughout Wednesday night’s game, it was clear that the Colonials had traveled to Dayton with with the intent to snap their losing skid. Offensively, the team was able to keep pace with the Flyers, an impressive feat considering Dayton’s offense averages a league-best 79.2 points. GW was especially helped in the first half by its success in long-range shots, converting seven of 11 three-pointers that put valuable points on the board. The Colonials entered halftime down by just six points to the Flyers, the team picked to finish second in the A-10.

Although GW was initially able to keep pace with the Flyers after returning to the court, at times closing the gap to a single point, as the game ticked on, the fatigue wrought by the limited number of Colonials became evident. GW closed the game with a field goal percentage of 41.3, shooting above 40 percent for just the fourth time this season, but allowed Dayton an 18-9 scoring run in the final minutes.

“To be quite honest with you, we scored the ball better this game,” Bozeman said. “I thought that the execution and the effort was there. [But] you could see right at a point at around the nine-minute mark where I felt the fatigue settled in.”

The lack of available bodies poses the most serious problem for the Colonials, forcing players to tally up serious minutes throughout the game. It’s a dilemma Bozeman is trying to remedy by creating a strong defense that can slow down the speed of play, saving his players from exerting inordinate amounts of effort.

“We’re definitely going to slow the plays down,” Bozeman said. He knows that opponents will try to use GW’s limited number of reserves to their advantage, as Dayton did Wednesday night.

“I think one thing you have to give credit to Dayton [for], they kept running fresh bodies in, and tried to use that to their advantage,” he allowed.

The Colonials’ focus on a strong defensive front was evident against the Flyers. They limited the number of open looks Dayton received, grabbing 23 defensive rebounds and forcing 16 turnovers, ultimately keeping the Flyers to a 41.9 field goal percentage. GW was also flexible with its defensive strategy as it worked to find the best approach to play, even switching to a two-to-three defense, which the Colonials don’t normally use, at one point in an effort to halt the opposition.

“The defensive effort was incredible, especially in the first half. I thought that we had a plan in place and they executed the plan,” Bozeman said.

A positive for the Colonials was the strong offensive play of junior Tiana Myers, who posted a career-high 24 points, making 10-of-14 field goals and 3-of-4 from long-range. Playing 34 minutes, Myers stepped into the role of GW’s go-to shooter for the game. Junior Tara Booker also had a strong game, adding 11 points and seven rebounds for the Colonials. Wilson, despite her nagging injury, also posted 11 points to the board.

“Tiana Myers gave us a superhuman effort tonight,” Bozeman said. “I think she was just determined, losing the other players. I think she was just determined to make up for their efforts. She wanted to establish herself today.”

Although the Colonials left Dayton without obtaining their first road win of the season, the loss is not without its positives for the team. In its next contest, 1 p.m. Saturday at Fordham, Bozeman will seek to further the improvements GW made Wednesday night.

“My major focus is on effort,” he said firmly. “And today we had a lot of effort. We were right there.”

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