Just three seconds out of a timeout in the second half of GW’s conference opener against Fordham, redshirt junior foward Brooke Wilson dished the ball out to senior forward Tara Booker behind the perimeter. With seven minutes and 55 seconds to play, Booker spotted up to the basket and drained her second three-pointer of the night, giving the Colonials their first lead of the game.
But the forward wasn’t done scoring.
Booker, who sank a jumper to narrow GW’s deficit to a single point before her trey, scored nine straight points over a seven minute stretch, while the Colonials defense limited the Rams to just a single free throw over the final ten minutes. Booker finished with 20 points and eight rebounds Saturday evening and has scored 56 points over her last three games.
GW (8-7, 1-0), who had not won an A-10 conference opener in head coach Mike Bozeman’s previous three seasons, defeated the Rams 54-43 in a nationally televised game Saturday evening. Bozeman said opening the A-10 season with a win was a big part of continuing to move the program forward, especially after tallying just three conference wins in each of the previous two seasons.
“It’s definitely huge,” Bozeman said. “What we have to do now is grind. I’m trying to tell the team that it was never a question of skill, it was us not paying attention to detail. In the second half we locked down. Whenever you hold a team to 15 points in a half you are really paying attention to details.”
Fordham, who entered the game with one of the top defenses in the A-10, jumped out to an early lead as the teams began play, using an 8-2 run over first four and a half minutes of the first half. Junior guard Danni Jackson paced GW’s offense in the first, netting 12 points. But as both sides traded baskets over the remainder of the half, making 11 field goals each, the Rams used six three pointers to maintain a 28-25 halftime lead.
When the second half opened, senior guard Tiana Meyers knocked down a three pointer to even the score. While the Rams used a 9-2 run to reassert their lead, Jackson dropped in a three of her own to knot the score at 39. Fordham would score their last field goal of the game on the ensuing possession with a three pointer, as Booker took over with 9:43 to play. GW closed the game on a 14-1 scoring run.
The Colonials defense limited Fordham to just 6-for-27 shooting in the second half. While being outrebounded 41-28, the Colonials compensated for their lack of presence on the boards by scoring 11 points off of 16 turnovers. With senior guard Kristin Aldridge running the offense, the Colonials turned the ball over just five times, only one of them coming in the second half.
“What we did in the second half was with Kristin Aldridge, who had five assists and zero turnovers,” Bozeman said. “We talk about assist to turnover ratio and how we have to control that in order to be successful in the conference, and I was really impressed with how we did as a team today.”
Jackson finished with 23 points on the night and Myers dropped in nine on a night where the Colonials found no production from their bench. With senior center Sara Mostafa still sidelined with a fractured hand, GW was even more short-staffed after freshman guard Chakecia Miller was kept out of the game after being hit on the head in practice. Junior forward Shi-Heria Shipp was limited to just two minutes of playing time as she recovers from a knee injury. Bozeman stated that both Miller and Shipp should be ready to go for GW’s next game.
With their center sidelined, Bozeman has adjusted his defense to a 2-3 zone, using his three power forwards, or fours, of Booker, Wilson, and sophomore Chelisa Painter. Bozeman refers to his three fours as his “twelve-group,” and has been more than pleased with the way they have stepped up in Mostafa’s absence.
“We put Chelisa Painter at the top of our 2-3 zone and that causes problems [for opposing offenses],” Bozeman said. “We had to make an adjustment. I think winning at William and Mary against a very formidable inside presence gave us some confidence. We ran into a buzz saw with Rutgers, but other than that the three games against William and Mary, American University, and now Fordham. That’s three straight games with our twelve-group that these guys are building confidence.”
The Colonials next travel to Richmond, Va. as they take on the Spiders at 7 p.m. Jan. 11 in their second conference matchup. Bozeman looks for his team to continue to build confidence as conference play progresses, and has cited a change in mentality as big part of his team’s early success.
“The key is getting used to winning versus accepting losing,” Bozeman said. “The last couple years these guys have been playing hindered, but we still got accustomed to losing. These guys want to win now and they’re getting a good taste of it.”