This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Matt Cullen.
On Saturday afternoon, the opposing squad came ready to play and the crowd filed in. But, GW never looked like a conference-leading team en route to their first home loss of the calendar year.
The Colonials (21-6, 11-3 A-10) fell to VCU (19-8, 8-6 A-10) 79-68 and were out-rebounded for only the second time all season.
Graduate student guard Lauren Chase and junior forward Caira Washington led the way for the Colonials with a combined 28 points and 11 rebounds. The Rams were paced by four players in double figures, including sophomore forward Curteeona Brelove with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
“You have to congratulate VCU, they got on the glass, they got the ball where they wanted it off dribble penetration and we have got to be better on the defensive end,” said head coach Jonathan Tsipis. “They were the more unselfish team today and they were the better team in transition.”
At the start of the game, the Rams attempted to shut down the Colonials offense by packing in the paint and limiting any inside shots. It worked well at the beginning. The Colonials started the game shooting 1-for-9 on jumpers or contested efforts in the paint. VCU was able to build a four-point lead on just layups and free throws, but it was not long before the Colonials responded.
A three-pointer from Kelli Prange and seven points on 3-for-5 shooting from Caira Washington allowed GW to close the gap to one at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter GW seemed to make it a mission to establish their attack through the post. They outscored VCU in the paint 12 to six and ran most of their possessions through Washington down low.
The Colonials were not able to make up the difference by halftime despite their improved inside presence. The Rams had a steady and balanced offense and were consistently getting to the rim. They had six scorers with multiple baskets but no one with more than eight points. VCU was also out rebounding the NCAA-leading Colonials 24-29 at halftime including 12-8 on the offensive boards.
“[Their rebounding] allowed their post players to get involved in the game early. Even when a contested shot went up, [junior guard] Ashley Pegram got two offensive rebounds. It gave them confidence,” said Tsipis.
In the third quarter the Colonials started to get into a rhythm and control the momentum enough to find themselves with their first lead of the game. Veteran leaders Chase, junior guard Hannah Schaible and Washington helped the Colonials get on a 9-0 run, riding the energy of the lively Senior Day crowd.
There were four lead changes in the last five minutes of the quarter and the Rams came out ahead after a jump shot by junior guard Keira Robinson to secure the one-point advantage.
The Rams took the control back at the beginning of the fourth quarter. They went on an 8-to-0 run off the bat and stopped any GW effort at the basket. The remainder of play was a battle, with both teams finding open shots and playing tough defense. Despite VCU maintaining a five-to-nine point lead for the majority of the quarter, the Colonials never looked out of contention.
“We had squeezed it to a two possession game and if we could get a stop we could go down the other end, execute and get a great shot. That didn’t really present itself because we just were not able to get stops,” Tsipis said.
Down 10 with a minute left to go, GW started to foul to stop the clock. Good late free throw shooting (7-of-10 in the quarter) by the Rams eliminated any last chance the Colonials had for a comeback.
Saturday was the eighth consecutive game that GW has been without their top scorer in senior forward Jonquel Jones. Her leadership was felt on the bench, but there is no rush to get her in the lineup before the end of the regular season.
“She is able to shoot and do some things in practice now. It’s great to see that it is progressing. But, there is no immediate timetable,” Tsipis said. “The positive part that we all see is she is definitely healing and getting better.”
The Colonials next matchup is Wednesday, Feb. 24 where they will play host to the Richmond Spiders. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.