Updated: Dec. 10, 2015 at 1:59 p.m.
With the team now having lost one fewer game than its entire total from last season, women’s basketball head coach Jonathan Tsipis has been focused on making changes.
Starting with the Lone Star showcase in Texas last weekend and continuing through GW’s loss to Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday, Tsipis has been trying out different combinations to see which starting five gives the Colonials the best chance to win.
Settling on the best players to complement the power posts, senior Jonquel Jones and junior Caira Washington, has been a challenge. After the loss to the Eagles on Thursday, Tsipis said that he’s still looking for ways to get the most out of his players, particularly on the defensive end.
“We have people right now that don’t fully understand their role when they are in the game,” Tsipis said. “Everybody’s role first and foremost is, ‘I want to be great defensively, so if the ball isn’t going in the basket, we will give ourselves an opportunity to win,’ and we aren’t there right now.”
Senior guards Aaliyah Brown and Alexis Chandler both got starts during the Texas tournament, as Tsipis wanted to give them a shot in their home state. Brown was in the starting five against Houston, replacing sophomore forward Kelli Prange.
“At the end of the day, we do whatever we need to for the team to win even if that means that I’m not in the lineup or another one of the guards,” junior guard Hannah Schaible, who has also been in the mix after missing the start of the season due to injury, said. “The thing that matters is if we win.”
Chandler moved into the starting lineup in the Iowa and Wright State games, but only contributed eight rebounds in the two-game span. Chandler was back as starter again on Thursday along with sophomore guard Brianna Cummings as Tsipis wanted to bring in strong defenders. Cummings ran into some foul trouble early, but Chandler posted three rebounds, trailing behind Jones and Washington who notched 21 and eight boards, respectively.
Having a defensively minded backcourt who isn’t afraid to chase the ball would also help GW combat its low number of steals per game. In all contests thus far, GW has tallied fewer than 11 steals. Even with a win against Grambling State, the Colonials lost the steals margin, 18‒9. In the Florida Gulf Coast match, the Colonials amassed only seven defensive turnovers.
Tsipis moved junior guard Shannon Cranshaw to the bench, hoping she would ignite a shooting spark when she entered the game. Cranshaw went 5‒5 from beyond the arc earlier this season against Grambling State, but only managed to get three looks in the first half and didn’t take a shot in the second frame against Florida Gulf Coast.
The Colonials fell short in the fourth quarter against the Eagles because of lack of aggression and missed opportunities in the paint, according to Tsipis.
“We’ve got to have an aggression to get that deep-post touch, be willing to drive the ball at the right angle off the baseline, so that we can kind of give up our bodies and get to the free throw line and we’ve really got to capitalize,” Tsipis said.
With some players not sure of their roles, the Colonials have struggled to execute in tough situations, especially in neck-and-neck contests. When the Eagles were triple or even quadruple-teaming Jones late in the game, the Colonials were unable to take advantage of the lack of coverage elsewhere and take uncontested shots. Tsipis said his team gets too relaxed when they start out with an early lead, namely against Wright State and Florida Gulf Coast who rallied late in the fourth quarter to claim victory.
“We are relying on somebody else to do it, as opposed to having people take up and say, ‘I’m gonna make the pass’ or ‘I’m gonna set the great screen’ or ‘I’m going to make the catch and see what the defense is going to do,’” Tsipis said. “I think we do that in practice, but we’ve got to be able to do it in games.”
Tsipis has a few weeks to finish tinkering with the lineup before Atlantic 10 conference play commences. Much of the process will happen through trial and error, but the focus will be on defensive performance above all else.
“I am still searching for the group that I think is our best defensive group,” Tsipis said. “I am trying to find the spark.”