GW thrives in games dictated by strong defensive play leading to easy fast-break baskets, executing its best play when it can control in transition.
But when opponents disrupt that gameplan, learning to attack inside to disrupt the Colonials’ comfort zone, it can spell an entirely different outcome for the team. Despite holding Charlotte to 23 first-half points, GW could not stop Charlotte’s effective inside attack on offense, leading to 45 points after the break for the 49ers and a second straight loss on the road for the Colonials, who fell 68-56.
“Both teams played well defensively in the first half and we were able to keep it close at halftime,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “And we started out strong at the beginning of the second half, but they were able to wear us down in the paint and get us into foul trouble. We are a better defensive team than we were showing in the second half.”
Tsipis attributed the 49ers’ 23 second-half free throw attempts as the catalyst for his team’s defensive struggles. The high number of yielded free throw attempts combined with the quality of post play from Charlotte’s frontcourt caused the Colonials to wear down in the second half.
The Colonials (11-14, 5-6) contained Charlotte’s offense in the first half, but could not capitalize on it. While Charlotte scored only 23 first-half points, GW managed to score only 17. GW converted just 22.2 percent of its shot attempts in the first half and struggled to score from the free throw line. GW attempted eight first-half free throws, but made only three.
“We didn’t attack enough at times, and we missed some opportunities where we should’ve made a run,” Tsipis said. “On the road, you need to withstand runs and maintain runs of your own to be successful.”
The Colonials began to find their way on offense in the second half. Yet, despite shooting 40.6 percent from the field in the half, attacking the heart of the 49ers defense and getting to the free throw line, the Colonials could not close the scoring gap.
Tsipis observed that his team builds confidence and plays best with a lead. While his squad does excel for strings of possessions when it’s down and in need of a quick basket, Tsipis recognizes the situations where his team is most comfortable and plays under control.
“During those wins, we were able to get a lead and build them throughout the game,” Tsipis said. “Today we were always playing from behind, and that is hard to overcome.”
Senior guard Danni Jackson led the Colonials with 12 points. Senior guard Megan Nipe and freshman guard Alexis Chandler each added 10 points, and senior guard Shi-Heria Shipp grabbed eight rebounds and scored eight points.
GW will have an entire week to rest and practice before its next game. Tsipis knows that the bye week in conference play will give his team a valuable rest, and said he also views the time as an opportunity for the team to regain focus.
The Colonials have three games remaining on the conference schedule, and Tsipis is instead looking at this last stretch of games as a new season. It’s an opportunity to gain position for the Atlantic-10 Tournament, Tsipis said. Jackson agreed, adding that the next stretch of play is a chance for GW to reset the tone of the season.
“We lost our intensity as the game went on, and we lost momentum in the second half. The bye is coming at a great time so we can regroup, and we need rest,” Jackson said. “The last three games are all critical and they are all winnable. We are going to raise our level of intensity and energy for these final few games, but that work will definitely start this week when we practice.”