When senior center Sara Mostafa fractured her hand a day before the Colonials were scheduled to take on Georgetown, GW was riding high on a four-game win streak.
After Mostafa’s injury, head coach Mike Bozeman was forced to adjust the offense that he spent all off-season researching and perfecting around his center. The adjustment hit some speed bumps, with GW losing its next three games in a row, but the Colonials picked up their first A-10 road win at Rhode Island Wednesday, showing they’ve begun to find their stride in the revamped offense.
GW took the court against the Rams sporting a 2-4 record on the road, coming off a game where Charlotte completed a come-from-behind victory in the final seconds of play. But the Colonials (9-9) used speed and quickness to their advantage Wednesday en route to a 63-42 victory, snapping a two-game losing streak.
A clear sign of Mostafa’s absence came at the glass, Rhode Island owning a 33-29 rebounding advantage. But GW compensated for its lack of size by scoring 18 points off of 19 Rams turnovers. And though the Colonials lost the battle at the boards 20-13 in the first half, GW turned the ball over just one time. That type of play, Bozeman said, will be key to the Colonials’ success as the A-10 season progresses.
“Our biggest struggle is going to be rebounding,” Bozeman said. “We don’t have a battle rebounding every night, but where we can even the playing field is in the turnover department. It’s something that we have to hang our hat on.”
GW got out to a fast start against Rhode Island, using an 8-1 scoring run over the first four and a half minutes of play to build a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of night. While the Rams struggled in almost every facet of the game, save rebounding, Rhode Island’s junior guard Ashley Rivera kept the game close over the first 10 minutes with her long range shooting. She hit back-to-back three pointers with eight and half minutes to play in the first half, but couldn’t make up for the rest of her team’s struggles, as the Colonials cruised to a 41-23 halftime lead, closing out the final three minutes on a 10-0 run.
The Colonials outgunned Rhode Island early, shooting 42.9 percent from the field in the first half while the Rams shot just 29 percent. Bozeman pointed to the advantage of his smaller lineup as a big part of his team’s success.
“It’s going to be a hard matchup for most teams with [big post players] that are trying to guard us, and that’s what we exploited today.” Bozeman said. “Scoring is going to be there. We are going to be quicker, we’re going press and we’re going to cause turnovers. We’ll be able to score the basketball.”
Led by junior guard Danni Jackson with 16 points, the Colonials also earned double-figure scoring from senior guard Tiana Myers and junior guard Megan Nipe, who scored 15 points and 12 points, respectively. Senior forward Tara Booker grabbed eight rebounds in addition to putting up eight points, and the Colonials maintained a double-digit lead for the entire second half.
“We were working really hard on that all week, on moving our bodies through the offense and sharing the basketball,” Bozeman said. “When we do that, we are tough to guard.”
Though GW was commanding offensively, Bozeman was even more focused on the defensive play put forth by his team. While the smaller lineup has allowed the Colonials to run more full-court presses, Bozeman was particularly impressed with the half-court defense in the second half.
Rhode Island stayed under 30-percent shooting on the game, but the biggest defensive adjustment for the Colonials came at the perimeter. After the Rams shot 42.5 percent from long range in the first, Bozeman and his team readjusted, holding Rhode Island to 33.3-percent shooting from three-point range in the second.
“Rivera had a good start on us with the threes in the first half, but in the second half we took pride in shutting her down,” Bozeman said. “We held her to just one field goal in the second half. When you have that kind of defensive performance, it makes your offense a lot better.”
In addition to defense, the Colonials went a perfect 15-for-15 from the free throw line, an indication of the team’s focus, Bozeman said.
“When you’re shooting free throws, you are focused and concentrating, and that boils over to other aspects of the game. I’m very encouraged when I see us getting free throws early,” Bozeman said.
GW next travels to Pittsburgh Jan. 21 to square off against Duquesne at 2 p.m.