Though the variety of statistical categories in basketball can be invaluable for the assessment of a team’s performance, sometimes winning or losing comes down to one thing: hitting or missing shots.
After coming off of three consecutive losses, the most recent one at the hands of Massachusetts on Sunday, the Colonials (11-16) returned to the Smith Center Wednesday night looking to take down conference rival La Salle. Though a victory against the Explorers would have given GW a certain berth in the A-10 tournament, the Colonials failed to capitalize on the opportunity, ultimately losing the match 69-47.
“It’s tough to win games when you’re shooting in the 30s, the low 30s,” head coach Mike Bozeman said. “It’s funny, because we’ve really tried to address that in practice by working on shooting. We take hundreds and hundreds of shots.”
A fiery 8-0 run started things off for the Colonials, providing them with an early blast of momentum. Four Colonial steals in the first four minutes not only served as a positive omen for GW’s defense, but also directly led to four field goals. It was exactly the type of transition play Bozeman believes his team needs to consistently reproduce to make up for its lack of size on the low-post.
But the Colonials’ electric play early on proved unsustainable. With 15:30 to play, La Salle opened a scoring run of its own, netting 16 consecutive points while holding GW scoreless over that stretch. Though senior guard Tiana Myers eventually stopped the bleeding with a three-pointer, the Colonials struggled to claw their way back into contention with the Explorers. Over the final eight minutes of the first half, GW was down by at least 10 points at any moment.
The Colonials’ developing tendency to start a game strong but then waver in the latter part of the first half is something Bozeman attributed to his team’s inability to develop consistency.
“It came at the same time that we missed nine straight shots. And then I bring people off the bench and it furthers the problem,” Bozeman said. “It became a snowball effect, because I was trying to work the infusion in while we were in a drought.”
By the end of the half, La Salle had accumulated an 11-point advantage, leaving GW wondering what it needed to do to turn things around. The Colonials finished the half with a 35.7 percent shooting, but as Bozeman noted, his team’s 28 first-half field goal attempts were just three fewer than the Explorers’ 31 attempts.
A prominent reason for the Colonials’ deficit at halftime was their inability to maintain the offensive and defensive rhythm they came out with in the opening minutes of the game. Bozeman believes that the infusion of returning players into his lineup is causing adjustment problems that translate into a loss of cohesion on the floor. For much of the season, the Colonials have only been able to rely on six players because of multiple injuries.
“I think what we’re struggling with is getting into a flow with the addition of the other players. I’m working on getting the cohesiveness back,” Bozeman said. “I’m not saying I would rather play with six, but the flow that those six were in is vastly different than trying to add those pieces back in.”
To open the second, La Salle converted on an aggressive three-point play, foreshadowing its success throughout the rest of the game. GW struggled mightily on both sides of the ball, and with five minutes to play, the Colonials found themselves in a rare and uncomfortable 20-point hole. The Colonials allowed the Explorers to shoot 40 percent from the field on the day, while only shooting 31.7 percent themselves.
“I don’t think this is a low point for us, but there is definitely a lot of frustration,” Bozeman said. “They know how much work they are putting in, and I don’t think they can explain the difficulty and the chemistry that’s within the team right now.”
Despite the losing effort, Myers and senior forward/guard Tara Booker both ended the game with double-digit point totals, compiling 15 and 12 points, respectively. Booker also added seven rebounds.
The Colonials shouldn’t be counted out just yet, Myers said. Their focus is still razor-sharp.
“You can perfect skill and spend hours in the gym, but it’s your passion, your heart and your mental state that’s key,” said Myers.
From Bozeman’s point of view, the key will be finding a way to make the team play as a more cohesive unit in preparation for the A-10 tournament that starts just two weeks from today.
Before that, the Colonials play their final regular season game versus conference foe St. Joseph’s Sunday in Philadelphia, and Bozeman remains steadfast in his belief in GW’s abilities.
“It’s such a fragile thing, chemistry. It takes time, but we don’t have that right now. We have to go and play a tough St. Joe’s game and prepare for the tournament,” Bozeman said. “We have to work that out, and I’m confident that we can.”