With its two leading scorers returning for a fifth year, offense was easy to come by for the women’s basketball team, as they cruised to a 86-54 win in Sunday’s exhibition game against Division II Young Harris.
Graduate student forward Megan Nipe showed no signs of regressing from her breakout season last year, putting up 29 points – 19 of them coming in the first half. Returning with Nipe was graduate student point guard Danni Jackson, who had a well-rounded night with 11 points, eight assists and five rebounds. When they were on the floor together, the Colonials’ offense was nothing but fluid.
“We’re going to try to use our team speed, which is our advantage I think – both on the perimeter as well as in the post – to try to get to our spots on the floor where we put the defense in a bad disadvantage,” Tsipis said. “I want to play at that pace. You have to be able to play a lot of people if you want to do that but Danni and Meg have done a really good job in pushing our team to do that.”
In just the first five minutes of play, Nipe lit up the scoreboard with 10 points off of two three pointers, a jumper and a layup. Her two threes came off a transition and well-run set play – a good sign that she will be the hinge point for the Colonials’ offense this season.
“We have that leadership role, we have experience, and we have a lot of young players. I think we feel we need to use that experience in order to bring ‘A’ chemistry to the team and fill all the younger ones with the knowledge that we have based off past years,” Nipe said of her, Jackson and fellow graduate student Brooke Wilson – who also started.
Freshman guard Hannah Schaible made a solid debut for GW. The central Florida standout fit right into the offense with 18 points, five assists and four rebounds. Although she admitted to have pregame nerves, she said her veteran teammates helped her get past them.
Off an assist from Jackson, Schaible knocked down the first of seven three-pointers for the Colonials in the first minute of play, after being freed up by a screen at the top of the key.
She continued to find the right spots within the Mountain Lions defense, as she came open off screens and cuts to the basket. Schaible was also a key part of GW’s transition offense, converting five steals into fast-break opportunities. GW had 15 total fast break points in the game.
“You could see why Hannah Schaible, besides from being a three-time state champion in basketball, was a pretty good flag football player,” Tsipis said. “She played free safety and is able to really anticipate and make some gambles that we think are good for our team to have.”
The defense showed little signs of rust as well, using different looks throughout the game, including a three-quarter press to start both halves when all the starters were on the floor. The high-energy press forced a few turnovers, although it also led to a few easy opportunities for Young Harris.
“We’re going to show varying types of pressure,” Tsipis said. “I think the biggest part is that our post players are versatile and can guard guards and really put some length in our press.”
Freshman Caira Washington took the top position in the defensive press and led the team in rebounds, with 16, but still showed signs of adjusting to the game. She found herself in foul trouble early, with two fouls in the first five minutes.
Tsipis also found ways to change the lineup with preseason All-Defensive team pick junior Chakecia Miller, who came off the bench for the Colonials. Although Tsipis said he has not decided on set lineups yet, he did say he liked the type of energy that last year’s A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Jocelyn Floyd brought off the bench for Duquesne.
When Miller was in, the Colonials typically played Jackson at the shooting guard position, leaving her open in the corner for several three-point opportunities. The mix in the lineup helped GW keep up their offensive push.
GW will gear up for their official regular season tip-off against Jackson State at 2:00 p.m. Saturday at the Smith Center. The game will likely act as their final tuneup, before going on to play the juggernauts of their non-conference schedule – Maryland and nationally ranked California.