The Colonials made their Atlantic 10 debut under head coach Jonathan Tsipis Saturday afternoon, but were unable to pull out an inaugural victory, falling to the Massachusetts Minutewomen 62-58.
GW came out strong, going up 7-2 in the first three minutes of play before losing the lead. As the two teams traded baskets, the Colonials tied their opponent at 16, but Massachusetts pulled ahead, not relinquishing the lead again, and marched the Colonials to their fourth straight loss.
“The tempo was played more at UMass’ pace, which was more of a half-court pace. We really wanted to try to make the game a little bit more up-and-down. We thought that we could score on transition. We’re better in that aspect,” Tsipis said.
The first half ended with Massachusetts up by seven, and Tsipis said he thought his team controlled the tempo at the end of the half, preparing them well for the second. Senior guard Danni Jackson made four free throws and one field goal before the break, while senior forwards Megan Nipe and Shi-Heria Shipp both had two field goals in the half.
Nipe opened the second half with a layup, and sophomore forward Chakecia Miller followed with a second. The Colonials stayed close behind the Minutewomen, before Massachusetts went on an eight-point run to lead GW 42-31.
“We made a good run to come out at the beginning of the second half, and then I think we got stuck a little bit,” Tsipis said. “We gave them confidence in some areas.”
With just over five minutes left to play, GW trailed the Minutewomen 55-40. A collective effort brought the Colonials within three points of tying the game twice in the last minute of play, but an ill-timed GW foul gave Massachusetts a free throw with four seconds left. The Colonials did not get another opportunity to score.
“When you’re on the road it’s always a difficult situation when you dig yourself a hole because you spent so much energy and effort trying to get back in the game,” Tsipis said. “We did play with a better sense of urgency in the last five minutes when we went with a smaller lineup, but we can’t wait for that point. We’ve got to be able to do that for much longer spurts of time.”
Tsipis said the game showed that his teams need to double down on their defensive approach. He wants to see GW finish more possessions successfully, and control the pace of the game on both sides of the court, forcing opponents to go deep in the shot clock.
On top of that, he added, the Colonials need to be in an offensive mindset for more of the game, and focus on dominating the flow and tempo of play.
“They’re things we definitely can, and will, get better at,” Tsipis said.
A bright spot for the Colonials, as usual, were their steals, edging Massachusetts 19-12. GW is second in the A-10 in steals, averaging 11 per game.
Graduate student forward Tara Booker and Nipe led the Colonials in rebounds, with six and five, respectively. Miller led the team with six assists. Booker and Jackson had 14 points apiece, with Jackson dishing out five assists, while Nipe and Miller added nine points and Shipp eight.
The production of the upperclassmen was heartening for Tsipis, as he will look to them over conference play to set an example for the younger players, especially during away games. Next, though, the Colonials return to the Smith Center Thursday against Saint Joseph’s after almost a month of action away from their home court.
“It seems like we’ve been away from the Smith Center for quite a bit of time,” Tsipis said.