Jonathan Tsipis came into Friday afternoon’s game with 50 head coaching wins at the Smith Center – the most of any women’s coach since 2005.
But in his first game against GW since leaving Foggy Bottom to helm Wisconsin last year, he was unable to pick up No. 51.
The Colonials (3-3) rode a second quarter defensive stronghold and a lengthy second-half run to a 61–46 victory over the Badgers (2-3) in both teams’ second game of the 2017 Paradise Jam.
“For the most part, we defended them pretty well and that’s how we need to be successful,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well again today, but we limited our turnovers and we defended so it just allowed us to create the space that we needed.”
Senior forward Kelli Prange led the way with 18 points on 5-for-11 shooting and freshman forward Neila Luma added a career-high 16 points, going 6-for-10. The duo carved out positioning on the interior more often than the undersized Colonials usually do.
Luma and Prange combined for 13 rebounds as the team recorded its first game with more rebounds than its opponents.
“Neila and I bring it every single game,” Prange said. “Our guards and people that haven’t necessarily stepped up, really proved themselves today with boxing out and getting rebounds.”
GW first took control of the game by a run that lasted nearly the entire length of the second quarter. After finishing the first frame with a one-point advantage, the Colonials cranked up the intensity in their half of the court and made it difficult for Wisconsin to take any good shots.
The Badgers were held to zero points for the first 9:47 of the 10-minute second quarter before a three-pointer on the final possession of the first half. Still, Wisconsin went into the break trailing by 13 because GW had mounted a 17-0 run during the Badgers’ scoring drought.
Although Wisconsin mounted a comeback in the third frame and made it a five-point game, GW continued to have the upper hand on both sides of the floor. The Colonials outscored the Badgers by four and held them to just 1-of-11 shooting in the fourth quarter.
“We made some plays. Kelli did a good job of getting us a couple quick buckets,” Rizzotti said. “When they started to come back, we showed that mental resiliency that I have been really challenging them to come up with.”
Wisconsin shot a season-low 26.7 percent from the field, including 14.3 percent shooting from behind the arc. Although GW shot only 35.3 percent from the floor and 22.7 percent from three, the Colonials defense made sure they remained ahead.
The game was tightly contested in the first quarter as both sides traded baskets. The Badgers led by as many as four points, but free throws from senior guard Brianna Cummings and a three-pointer from senior guard Camila Tapias quickly regained GW’s lead.
The Colonials finished the first quarter with a 14–13 lead after free throws from Luma with one minute on the clock.
GW finished the game shooting 20-for-25 from the line in a game marked with physicality on both sides. Six players in Friday’s game picked up at least four fouls and one member of each squad fouled out.
“We want to continue to make sure we get to the free throw line,” Rizzotti said. “But we need to make sure we do a better job of getting our hands off and influencing guys in a way where we can rotate better.”
The Colonials’ strong performance in the second quarter was fueled largely by their defense, but four five points from both freshman guard Lexus Levy and Prange led the way offensively.
Two GW baskets in the opening two minutes of the second half extended the Colonials’ lead to 17 points – its largest at the time, but the Badgers started to find their shot.
Wisconsin fought back throughout the third quarter and went on an 18-6 run that cut the difference on the scoreboard to five points with just over 11 minutes to play in the game. GW finished the third quarter with a 6-0 run for themselves to take a 45–34 lead going into the final frame.
With seven minutes to play, a three-pointer from Tapias was the first field goal of the fourth quarter and the beginning of an 8-0 GW run. The Colonials led by as many as 19 points on two occasions, but Wisconsin free throws narrowed the lead slightly in the closing minutes.
The Colonials return to action Saturday for their third and final Paradise Jam matchup against Syracuse (4-0) in the Smith Center at 3:30 p.m.