The hallmark of the women’s basketball team was supposed to be a dominant inside game: feed all-conference post players and demolish the paint.
But in the exhibition match against Virginia Union (Division II) on Sunday, it was the Colonials’ outside game that shone in their 99-45 win over the Panthers.
The posts were still effective – junior forward Jonquel Jones and and sophomore forward Caira Washington combined for 21 points and 16 rebounds – but that was to be expected as the duo picked up where they left off last season. On the wings and at the point, however, there were questions to be answered.
Sophomore guard Hannah Schaible was a significant contributor last year, averaging 7.2 points per game, but was more of a glue player than a star like Megan Nipe or Danni Jackson, who defined GW’s perimeter play before they graduated. Schaible lead the team in scoring just once last season – in a 20-point loss when no Colonial scored in double figures.
On Sunday, however, she racked up a team-high 15 points and was perfect from beyond the arc with a trio of three pointers in as many attempts.
“I need [Hannah] to be more offensive-minded. We know the attention that Jonquel, Caira and the other posts are going to command, and we’ve got to have kids that put themselves in positions to be aggressive offensively,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “I thought she was from the very start today.”
Tsipis said the rest of the team can “feed off” Schaible’s aggression and follow her lead to capitalize on greater outside space with defenders focusing their attention on the bigs inside, especially noting freshmen like Mia Farmer, who followed Schaible’s lead and also hit three three pointers.
Freshmen were not the only new faces to suit up for GW: Senior guard Lauren Chase dished the ball around on the perimeter with a team-high eight assists in her first game as a Colonial after missing all of last season. Chase had to take a year-long break from basketball because of a third concussion, and though she showed some signs of rust with one-for-three shooting and three turnovers, she played unselfishly to help open up the floor.
GW outscored Virginia Union 42-18 in the paint and played fast, feasting on easy layups to win the edge in fast break points 26-12. But the guards did not play like they were just trying to help the inside players succeed, capitalizing on their own looks with confidence.
“The goal tonight was to play at a transition pace, to run the floor and to put the defense in mix-match situations and stretch it out,” Tsipis said. “There were times when they would have a good shot and they gave that up to get a great shot. I’m really proud because they didn’t hesitate from the three-point line.”
The pace might have helped players on the inside get easy buckets, but players on the perimeter profited defensively. Twenty of the Panthers’ 33 turnovers were caused by steals, with the Colonials switching defenses and pressing to put Virginia Union on its heels from all angles.
That versatility had players in all positions feeling capable of contributing in different ways. Guard Brianna Cummings pulled down eight rebounds, and even 6-foot-5 forward Kelli Prange felt comfortable launching a three pointer, though it didn’t fall.
Prange said she is taking the lead from her fellow post players.
“I have huge leaders to look up to in J.J. and Caira. I went to most of their games last year, and I was able to really learn from them by getting the fundamentals down first,” Prange said. “I just really need to keep crashing the boards, which is going to be a main focus going into season play.”
What she saw last season is still out there for GW, and though exhibition results always come with an asterisk, the 54-point win made it seem like there are some new factors for the Colonials as well.
Along with speed and mental toughness on the floor, Tsipis said the team will work on running a variety of defensive strategies to throw off the offensively-minded Florida Gulf Coast Team. GW will go on the road for its first regular season matchup against the Eagles on Friday at 7 p.m.