RICHMOND – It was a tale of two halves in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament for the women’s basketball team, which ultimately went on to defeat Saint Louis 77-63 on Friday.
The Colonials knew they wouldn’t have an easy path through the A-10 tournament after the Billikens knocked off VCU on Thursday – and it showed in the first half.
GW and Saint Louis, the only team to take down the Colonials during conference play, battled for the entire first frame.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was some extra motivation,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “Just because when you finish the regular season with one conference loss and you happen to be playing that same team, I’d be lying.”
The Colonials never gave up the lead, but they couldn’t put any real distance between themselves and their opponent in the first half. Saint Louis matched nearly every shot GW took, pulling even at one point midway through the half and never trailing by more than eight.
The X factor for the Colonials in the first was sophomore forward Caira Washington, who led the offense for much of that frame, scoring 14 points and pulling down seven boards. She would finish the game with 24 points and was a rebound shy of a double-double.
“[I was] just getting into the right spots,” Washington said. “They were bringing two to double [frontcourt mate Jonquel Jones], and I just make my moves as quickly as possible. That worked for me today.”
The game started to shift GW’s way almost as soon as the buzzer went off signaling the start of the second half.
Behind the strong game of GW’s two bigs, sophomore guard Hannah Schaible had a good game, tying Jones with 14 points and dishing out five assists.
“As the game moved along, more and more people contributed for us,” Tsipis said. “Hannah Schaible was really good, a huge three-pointer in the first half. As we closed the first half, it gave us the same mentality as we started the second half.”
Washington had two steals early in the second, which helped swing momentum in the direction of the Colonials. They didn’t take their foot off the gas, while Saint Louis, whose starters all played significant minutes in their win over VCU, began to slow down early.
GW would hold the lead by as much as 19 midway through the half, anchored by continued strong play from Washington and a good second half from junior forward Jones.
Jones met her season average of a double-double per game, with 14 points and 15 rebounds, and most of that came in the second frame.
Saint Louis tried to launch a late comeback, but with about 3:30 remaining, a thunderous block from Jones and a steal from senior guard Chakecia Miller a minute later were enough to slow down the Billikens.
Saint Louis would bring it as close as seven, but the Colonials had built up enough of a lead that they were able to weather the late run.
As time wound down, the Colonials kept enough distance to force Saint Louis to foul. GW twisted the knife from the charity stripe, hitting free throws late and 81 percent for the day.
Dominance on the boards was also crucial for the Colonials: They grabbed 49 boards – led by Jones’ 15 – compared to Saint Louis’ 30.
“We’re a team all year that’s taken a lot of pride about being really good defensively and making sure people don’t get extra opportunities,” Tsipis said. “Plus 19 on the rebounding margin is the first thing we look at.”
With the win, GW will move on to the semifinals Saturday to face the winner of the Fordham and Richmond game.