What does double overtime against a team tied for first place for the conference, undefeated in league play, say?
It spells tenacity. And fight. And heart – three qualities head coach Jonathan Tsipis thinks his team has.
That’s why, even though the Colonials ultimately fell 63-59 in double overtime to Duquesne, Tsipis immediately emphasized the pride he has in his team during his postgame press conference.
“I thought our kids had an unbelievable will to fight, and did a great job getting the lead in the second half,” Tsipis said. “We fought. And that’s what I’m most proud of in our team. We challenged them at halftime to come out and throw that first punch, and I think we threw some good combinations and got out, and got in our transition game.”
Still, dropping a double overtime contest was a heartbreaking turn of events for the Colonials (8-12, 2-4 A-10). It was a loss born of equal parts fatigue, and Duquesne doing more to close the game out, Tsipis said.
“We were struggling to score, and we felt like we couldn’t rely on jumpers,” Tsipis said. “I think the difference, from that point, was their activity level was better, and when they broke us down defensively, somebody had a wide open shot.”
After a slow start early in the game, the Colonials revamped their approach, boxing out with greater energy and fighting harder to hold their ground against the Dukes.
The team went on an 8-0 run to halt Duquesne’s dominance, exiting the half with an advantage on the boards and the game tied at 24.
In the second, the Colonials opened with a quick run that gave them the lead, continuing to crack down on the Dukes’ chances. The team shot 33 percent overall on the game, and its true offensive success came when it cracked down on the glass and got out in transition, its head coach said.
“Then, I think , it makes the basket bigger, and you start running your half court sets, and everything like that,” Tsipis said.
The team’s attack was led by graduate student forward Sara Mostafa and senior guard Danni Jackson, who each tallied 17 points. Mostafa added nine rebounds, and Jackson supplemented her points total with three assists. It felt like the offense was clicking best when the whole team pushed its attack together, the two said.
“We were able to run the plays properly, I got open a few times from my teammates setting good screens,” Mostafa said. “That’s just something that we always stress. Setting good screens, hitting someone to get your teammate open, and hitting the boards.”
The team was able to keep within striking distance from the Dukes despite turning the ball over 25 times, tying GW’s second-highest total of the season. Duquesne scored 27 points off of turnovers on the game.
“Besides a number, it’s a matter of a confidence level,” Tsipis said. “I didn’t feel like in either of the overtimes that played a factor, but it definitely did when they made their run. We were forced to have to score just in the half court.”
Despite a GW crackdown on defense, the Dukes weren’t the kind of team to go quietly. Even when faced with GW’s revamped pressure, they continued to battle, going on a 16-2 run to regain the lead with six minutes remaining. Regulation ultimately ended in a tie at 48, the game heading into two overtime periods before Duquense walked away with a narrow victory.
Still, it was a performance with many highlights for the Colonials, including their defense. They cracked down on the perimeter, holding the Dukes to 1-17 shooting from beyond the arc.
“I thought today we played really well on defense. I just think that sometimes, we miss some key things and details, what we know we should have done, we just missed them,” Jackson said. “They were just mental lapses.”
But though it was a game with many positives for the Colonials, the loss still stung as GW walked away from the Smith Center Wednesday.
“The thing that gave me confidence was seeing the good things that my teammates and I were doing,” Mostafa said. “I do feel confident moving forward, but this one just hurts really bad. Because it was right there.”