The women’s basketball team may be facing an identity crisis.
After another injury to a major player, this time to sophomore transfer Jonquel Jones, the Colonials must decide who will lead the charge as they finish out their conference schedule.
The 6-foot-4 forward went down Saturday in a matchup at George Mason. She returned quickly to the GW bench after being examined by a trainer, but would not re-enter the game, and sat out Wednesday’s loss to Saint Joseph’s.
While her teammates fought to come back from a 16-point deficit Wednesday, Jones sat helpless on the sidelines in a tracksuit, a boot on her right foot. Her team, unable to score on their last three possessions, would fall to the Lady Hawks, 75-69.
To put the loss entirely on her absence would be jumping to conclusions – GW actually outscored the Hawks in the paint, 38-22. But the team looked frazzled, especially early, as they missed easy buckets inside and struggled to adjust to the lack of depth in the frontcourt.
“I don’t feel like we made specific adjustments since we didn’t have Jonquel,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “I think it’s just a matter of everybody had to step up a spot in the rotation.”
With eight minutes left in the second half Wednesday, Tsipis waved his arms wildly during a timeout during a conversation with his bigs. It was an image GW fans have seen before this season, but with one change: graduate student Brooke Wilson standing beside freshman Caira Washington in place of Jones.
Wilson had by far the biggest step-up performance of the day, giving the Colonials 10 points on 5-6 shooting, while pulling down 11 rebounds – five coming on the offensive glass. Her 10 points were a season high and her 11 rebounds matched her season high from the season opener.
She more than doubled her production against Saint Joe’s this time around, responding well to playing probably her highest number of minutes since the Cal game, Tsipis said.
“I think offensively, we still wanted to get touches inside, knowing that we could get Caira going, Brooke could feed off of that,” Tsipis said. “I felt like we did that.”
Wilson’s effort was particularly valiant down the stretch, scoring the Colonials’ last points of the game. At the time, that tied it up at 69 apiece.
“Brooke can do the same thing that Jonquel can do, so we just took care of business out there down low,” Washington said of her frontcourt partner.
Still, Wilson’s effort just didn’t match Jones’ 21 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and three blocks that propelled GW to its road win Jan. 5 against last year’s conference champs.
So what’s to come? Tsipis declined to comment on Jones’ injury, so for now, her dominating inside presence will still be listed as day-to-day.
The Colonials, though, have already survived once this year when having to adapt to a new style of play. Earlier this season, the Colonials were a sharp-shooting fury, led by graduate student Megan Nipe until she got hurt and was forced to the sidelines for five games.
That’s when Jones took the lead, posting five double-doubles over eight games. GW became an inside-first team, looking for any chance they could to score in the paint.
This time, with Jones out and Nipe still looking shaky on the court, things will be much tougher. To stay competitive, GW will need continued production from Wilson down low, as well as a jolt of productivity from players like Hannah Schaible and Alexis Chandler.
GW leads their next three opponents – La Salle, Massachusetts and Rhode Island – in the Atlantic 10 standings, so those games may provide a bit of a buffer for other players to get going if Jones is sidelined long-term.