This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Brennan Murray.
It’s only on the rarest occasions that basketball teams gain confidence following a loss.
But for the Colonials (10-12) Saturday afternoon, a 80-69 loss to undefeated conference rival St. Bonaventure wasn’t completely negative. Head coach Mike Bozeman said the team’s performance, despite the defeat, actually highlighted GW’s potential to compete at a high level with some of the nation’s top programs.
“Not everything went our way, but we fought,” Bozeman said. “With the six players that we have available, to even have an opportunity to seize this game on the road against a team that’s in front in our conference, that just shows what we’re capable of.”
From the first minutes of play it was evident that neither the Colonials nor the Bonnies would concede victory without a fight. On the very first possession of the game, senior guard Tiana Myers found an open look from the elbow and drained a confident shot. The shot, which also gave the Colonials a quick lead, more significantly made her the 26th member in GW women’s basketball history to score over 1,000 career points. As if that milestone wasn’t enough, Myers would also go on to break her career record of 24 points, netting an impressive 27 points overall on the day.
But despite confident shooting from Myers and the rest of the GW squad, St. Bonaventure never failed to provide answers from their end of the court, most of the time from beyond the arc. The Bonnies hit a total of 11 three-pointers on the day, eight of which came from St. Bonaventure’s sharpshooting senior guard Jessica Jenkins. Neither team hesitated to capitalize on open looks – in the first half alone, there were 28 converted field goals between both teams.
Bozeman believes his team’s ability to put together such a large number of shots is a product of recent offensive adjustments he’s had to make to counteract his bench’s lack of depth.
“That’s something we’ve been really working on in practice. When you have these kinds of setbacks in terms of getting down to six players, you have to settle in and develop the audacity to come into a place like this and actually believe you can win this type of game,” Bozeman said.
By the middle of the first half, the game had transformed into a shootout, a back-and-forth battle between Myers and St. Bonaventure’s Jenkins, a player whose success on the day pushed her into the top 25 players in NCAA history for made three-point field goals. But it was not until the end of the first half that the Bonnies eventually broke away from GW, a run that culminated with a seven-point lead over the Colonials heading into the break.
Also contributing to the Colonials shooting success in the first half with a three pointer each were junior guard Danni Jackson and senior guard/forward Tara Booker, both of whom ended the game in double digits with 10 and 13 points, respectively. Redshirt junior Brooke Wilson also added impressive numbers, netting eight points and five rebounds on the day, four of them coming off the offensive glass. Bozeman said Wilson’s versatility and dominance on the boards will be key as the Colonials head down the final stretch of the regular season.
“We even ask Brooke to guard some guards because she’s probably one of the most versatile players in the conference,” Bozeman said. “Rebounding-wise, she’s an athlete. She’s long, she’s athletic, and she has a nose for the basketball. We depend on that.”
Coming back on the court to start the second half of play, the Colonials were initially unable to claw away at the lead the Bonnies had acquired. Only two minutes in, St. Bonaventure had were up by 13, taking advantage of a struggling GW defense. But with a little over 16 minutes to go, the Colonials offense found a rhythm, aided mostly by a mix of hustle and offensive boards.
With 10 minutes and 48 seconds to play, the Colonials finally pulled within three points of the Bonnies after a strong drive to the hole and layup by Myers. But on their next possession, St. Bonaventure nailed a three, shaking the GW’s momentum and ending its seven-point run. From that point on, GW failed to get within five points of their opponent, ultimately losing the game 80-69.
“Fatigue obviously was a factor, but we executed the game plan. If it wasn’t for a few mistakes once we got down three [points], I think the game could have went a different way,” Bozeman said.
Despite the loss, Bozeman believes his team is finding smooth ground, underlining GW’s focus on execution of the new offensive schemes.
Executing, along with returning more bodies to the bench, he believes, will make for an extremely exciting rest of the regular season.
“I think this group has bought into the system. I think today they were very disciplined to that with the exception of a few mental lapses at some inopportune times. These guys are ready to move on to another level,” Bozeman said. “We need more bodies. If we get and get those guys on the same level of these guys in terms of commitment to the system, I’m excited about where we can go from here.”
The Colonials are back in action Wednesday at noon when they host conference rival Xavier in the Smith Center.