The women’s basketball team strung together moments of superior offensive and defensive performances Wednesday night, including a closing first-half run that pulled the team within five points.
Ultimately, though, the Colonials couldn’t pull out a victory in Ohio. GW scored efficiently and forced Xavier into difficult shot attempts, but struggled to prevent the Musketeers from drawing fouls, earning trips to the free throw line and ultimately converting the majority of their attempts.
GW fell 65-62 and head coach Jonathan Tsipis attributed the loss largely to his team’s inability to keep Xavier away from the charity stripe.
“Our team has exhibited great effort and we will continue to play hard,” Tsipis said. “We can do that without fouling and we can be disciplined.”
The Colonials (12-15, 6-7) were down 34-29 at the break, after holding the Muskateers without a field goal over the final five minutes and 23 seconds of the half.
But 12 early free throw attempts gave Xavier a clear edge. After the Colonials opened the game on a 7-0 run, the Muskateers responded with a 21-5 scoring run of their own.
GW shot 48.1 percent from the field in the first half, compared to 42.3 percent shooting from Xavier, but Xavier made eight of their twelve chances from the stripe over the first half of play, while the Colonials did not attempt a single free throw.
“When you hold someone to a lower field goal percentage they may then lack confidence. Free throw attempts can restore that confidence and that hurt us early and put us down,” Tsipis said.
Xavier continued to earn trips to the free throw line in the second half. GW’s defense held Xavier to 27.3 percent shooting and a total of six made baskets in the second half, a crushing counter to the Muskateers’ attack.
But after Xavier withstood a strong second half push from GW, including a significant Colonial run over the opening few minutes of play and a shooting drought of their own, to explode as the competition came to a close. A 12-2 run down the stretch cemented the Muskateers’ victory.
Trying to disrupt the Colonials’ attack, the Muskateers concentrated on drawing fouls and halting any GW momentum that may have been building. Xavier made 18 of its 22 second half free throw attempts and limited the Colonials to 36.1 percent shooting, enough to cement its victory.
Senior forward Megan Nipe praised her team’s play against Xavier, but also acknowledged that Wednesday’s matchup easily could have gone the other way for the Colonials.
“We fought really hard and the effort was there. I think we played well enough to win,” Nipe said. “ We missed a few opportunities here and there and that ultimately made the difference. But I still do see this game as one that should have been a win for us.”
Senior guard Danni Jackson led the Colonials with 18 points and Nipe added 15 points. Senior guard Shi-Heria Shipp contributed 10 points and six rebounds while graduate student forward Tara Booker grabbed 11 rebounds in addition to scoring seven points.
Tsipis will work to refocus his squad before they play their final game before heading to the Atlantic 10 tournament. His team’s success, he added, will come with renewed focus on the basic aspects of its play.
“To succeed, we got to be able to have players on the floor who aren’t in foul trouble. But we always have to have the understanding that doing the things that got us the lead in the first place are necessary. That’s how we got a lead at the beginning of the second half but then we went away from our strengths,” Tsipis said. “It often comes down to momentum and we want to build that momentum in our games. There is no one in the league who I think we can’t play with.”