The Bulls are seeing red.
South Florida enters Thursday’s third round of the Women’s NIT against GW with a bit of a chip on its shoulder, as the team was one of the last four out from the NCAA Tournament field. USF head coach Jose Fernandez was quoted in the Tampa Tribune saying the “whole [NCAA selection process] is flawed.”
Bulls leading scorer, sophomore Courtney Williams – with an average of 16.1 points per game – told USF’s school paper, The Oracle, “We expect to win [the WNIT].”
The 21-12 Bulls are also no strangers to postseason play, earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament last year and winning the WNIT back in 2009.
For the Colonials and head coach Jonathan Tsipis, though, the tournament is about the matchup at hand, not what could’ve gone differently in the past. GW notched a convincing 76-66 second-round win against Villanova last weekend.
“We just talked about that we got to be the last ones standing, someway, somehow,” Tsipis said Sunday after the win over the Wildcats. “You’re in a one-game season and if you have the opportunity to do it six times in the season then you’ve done a pretty good job at it.”
The matchup is a familiar one for Tsipis, who spent seven years in the Big East as an assistant at Notre Dame. Before coming to GW two years ago, Tsipis said he remembers playing USF at least once every season.
Tsipis emphasized the Bulls’ “explosive guards,” especially fifth-year senior guard Inga Orekhova. Tsipis recalled five threes she made in the first half alone against one of his Fighting Irish teams.
He compared Orekhova to VCU’s first-team all-conference senior guard Robyn Parks, who the Colonials held to 13 points on 4-for-21 shooting in a 80-62 loss earlier this season. But the 6-foot-2 Orekhova may be a more difficult assignment without much height in the backcourt for the Colonials. Tsipis said his guards will have to keep their hands up all game, while his bigs may have switch out to defend her on ball screens down low.
The Colonials expect to counter the productivity of the Bulls’ top talent with what they’ve excelled at all season: rebounding and inside scoring. GW has extended its season by dominating the glass and tempo of games, out-rebounding East Carolina and Villanova a combined 108-79, while outscoring them in the paint 66-48.
Look for the Colonials to run their offense through the frontcourt duo of freshman Caira Washington and sophomore Jonquel Jones. GW will also look for production from junior Chakecia Miller, who appears to have healed from her back injury, finding her scorer’s touch by driving in the lane and pulling up for high-percentage jumpers.
As for the defensive end, Tsipis said that additional focus will be set on USF senior Akila McDonald, who had a successful second-round game against Stetson. The 6-foot-4 center went 10-for-11 from the field for 21 points, mostly against a Stetson zone defense. To give McDonald trouble, GW may switch up its defensive looks and play more man-to-man defense to prevent her production.
If either team falls into foul trouble, the team that can execute offensively against a zone will likely advance.
“You hope that both the non-conference and the league prepare you to see all the different styles and that you’ll be ready,” Tsipis said. “There won’t be that many hidden mysteries when you head to the postseason.”