Courtside

Your Guide to GW sports

Contributor

Daniel Wright

dwright@gwhatchet.com

Junior guard Danni Jackson fends off Greyhound defenders earlier this season. | Hatchet File Photo

When senior center Sara Mostafa fractured her hand a day before the Colonials were scheduled to take on Georgetown, GW was riding high on a four-game win streak.

After Mostafa’s injury, head coach Mike Bozeman was forced to adjust the offense he spent all off-season researching and perfecting around his center. The adjustment hit some speed bumps, GW losing its next three games in a row, but the Colonials picked up their first A-10 road win at Rhode Island Wednesday, showing they’ve begun to find their stride in the revamped offense.

GW took the court against the Rams sporting a 2-4 record on the road, coming off a game where Charlotte completed a come-from-behind victory in the final seconds of play. But the Colonials (9-9) used speed and quickness to their advantage Wednesday en route to a 63-42 victory, snapping a two-game losing streak.

A clear sign of Mostafa’s absence came at the glass, Rhode Island owning a 33-29 rebounding advantage. But GW compensated for its lack of size by scoring 18 points off of 19 Rams turnovers. And though the Colonials lost the battle at the boards 20-13 in the first half, GW turned the ball over just one time. That type of play, Bozeman said, will be key to the Colonials’ success as the A-10 season progresses.

“Our biggest struggle is going to be rebounding,” Bozeman said. “We don’t have a battle rebounding every night, but where we can even the playing field is in the turnover department. It’s something that we have to hang our hat on.”

GW got out to a fast start against Rhode Island, using an 8-1 scoring run over the first four and a half minutes of play to build a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of night. While the Rams struggled in almost every facet of the game, save rebounding, Rhode Island’s junior guard Ashley Rivera kept the game close over the first ten minutes with her long range shooting. She hit back-to-back to three pointers with eight and half minutes to play in the first half, but couldn’t make up for the rest of her team’s struggles, as the Colonials cruised to a 41-23 halftime lead, closing out the final three minutes on a 10-0 run.

The Colonials out gunned Rhode Island early, shooting 42.9 percent from the field in the first half while the Rams shot just 29 percent. Bozeman pointed to the advantage of his smaller lineup as a big part of his team’s success.

“It’s going to be a hard matchup for most teams with [big post players] that are trying to guard us, and that’s what we exploited today.” Bozeman said. “Scoring is going to be there. We are going to be quicker, we’re going press, and we’re going to cause turnovers. We’ll be able to score the basketball.”

Lead by junior guard Danni Jackson with 16 points, the Colonials also earned double-figure scoring from senior guard Tiana Myers and junior guard Megan Nipe, who scored 15 points and 12 points, respectively. Senior forward Tara Booker grabbed eight rebounds in addition to putting up eight points, and the Colonials maintained a double-digit lead for the entire second half.

“We were working really hard on that all week, on moving our bodies through the offense and sharing the basketball,” Bozeman said. “When we do that we are tough to guard.”

Though GW was commanding offensively, Bozeman was even more focused on the defensive play put forth by his team. While the smaller lineup has allowed the Colonials to run more full court presses, Bozeman was particularly impressed with the half-court defense in the second half.

Rhode Island stayed under 30 percent shooting on the game, but the biggest defensive adjustment for the Colonials came at the perimeter. After the Rams shot 42.5 percent from long range in the first, Bozeman and his team readjusted, holding Rhode Island to 33.3 percent shooting from three-point range in the second.

“Rivera had a good start on us with the threes in the first half, but in the second half we took pride in shutting her down,” Bozeman said. “We held her to just one field goal in the second half. When you have that kind of defensive performance it makes your offense a lot better.”

In addition to defense, the Colonials went a perfect 15-for-15 from the free throw line, an indication of the team’s focus, Bozeman said.

“When you’re shooting free throws you are focused and concentrating and that boils over to other aspects of the game. I’m very encouraged when I see us getting free throws early because I know we’re focused and locked in on the game and that’s where I need us to be,” Bozeman said.

GW next travels to Pittsburgh Jan. 21 to square off against Duquesne at 2 p.m.

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 2:45 p.m.

Yoni Berhanu among D.C. United trialists

Yoni Berhanu, men's soccer, A10

Senior Yoni Berhanu battles two Duquesne opponents last season. | Hatchet File Photo

After a standout career with the Colonials, senior Yoni Berhanu’s soccer playing days aren’t over quite yet.

The midfielder, who was the Atlantic 10 Midfielder of the Year this past season, is one of 14 trialists who will be training with the Major League Soccer club D.C. United in hopes of earning a spot on their preseason training roster.

Berhanu sat atop the conference with 11 goals and 26 points last season and was an instrumental part of the Colonials’ regular season A-10 co-championship. Berhanu’s 72nd minute free kick that slipped past the Duquesne goal keeper Nov. 6 was one of the defining moments of his career, propelling GW to its first regular season title since the 1992 season. Berhanu and the Colonials made it to the A-10 tournament championship game, before falling in a penalty-kick shootout to Xavier.

After earning a No. 13 preseason ranking, GW earned just two victories with conference play gearing up. But while the Colonials struggled to score early in the season, Berhanu and junior Seth Rudolph combined to overhaul GW’s offensive attack, to become one of the top-scoring duos in the A-10. The streaking Colonials finished conference play with a 7-2 record and won their last six games before falling to Xavier.

Berhanu wrapped his playing career with 55 points and 15 assists, just shy of 10th-best in both slots on the GW all-time records. If he is selected to United’s roster, Berhanu will join the team at training camp in Florida, scheduled to start  Monday.

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Philip Graeter, swimming

Junior Philip Graeter swims his leg of the butterfly relay during a dual meet against Bucknell in the Smith Center pool last year. | Hatchet File Photo

The men’s and women’s swim teams returned to the pool this weekend at the Rhode Island Invitational, finishing in second of three teams and fourth of four teams, respectively, after a month-long break from competition.

Leading the men’s squad was junior Niklas Glenesk, who finished with three victories in the 200-, 500-, and 1,000-yard freestyles to help the Colonials post 464 team points. Glenesk was named the Atlantic 10 Performer of the Week for his showing at the invitational, claiming victory in the 1,000-yard freestyle with a time of 9:48.06 and edging out the runner-up by a margin of 7.21 seconds.

Junior Phillip Graeter grabbed two first-place finishes in the 200-yard individual medley and 400-yard individual medley, winning by 0.24 seconds in the 400. Graeter also placed second in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:55.44. He also helped lead the Colonials to a second-place finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay, joined by teammates Glenesk, senior Marshall Seedorff and junior Luke Quimby.

Taking on Rhode Island, La Salle, and Massachusetts, the women’s swimming team finished in fourth place with 314 team points. While the women’s team earned 18 top-five finishes, sophomore Caroline Myers had a standout showing, swimming her way to three first-place finishes. Myers tallied wins in the 500-free, 1,000-free and the 400-yard individual medley.

Freshman Janica Lee grabbed two second-place finishes in the 200-yard individual medley and 200-yard breaststroke, while fellow freshman Morgan Zebley came in second in the 100-yard butterfly in 59.95 seconds.

Lee and Zebley also lead the 200-yard medley relay team with sophomores Lindsay Moore and Melissa Fernandez to a second-place finish with a time of 1:52.41.

The Colonials will next host Georgetown Jan. 21 at 11 a.m. in the Smith Center.

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Tara Booker, womens basketball, bball

Senior forward Tara Booker reaches unsuccessfully for a rebound during the first half of Saturday's game against Charlotte in the Smith Center. Michelle Rattinger | Senior Photo Editor

With 37 seconds to play in the second half of GW’s matchup against A-10 foe Charlotte, junior guard Danni Jackson knocked down a late third-chance jumper, giving the Colonials a one-point lead as the game clock ticked down.

But despite that shot, and a 10-point second half for Jackson, it was Charlotte’s freshman guard Ayanna Holmes who stole the spotlight in the final minute and a half of Saturday’s contest.

After being held scoreless until the final 90 seconds of play, Holmes converted a late layup to put the 49ers ahead. On the following possession, Holmes drained a jumper with 11 seconds left, giving Charlotte the final lead of the game.

Followed by a 49ers steal, thwarting any GW chance at a late rally, Charlotte handed GW (8-10, 1-2 Atlantic 10) their second consecutive conference loss of the season, 61-60.

“They were tough,” head coach Mike Bozeman said. “I told my team that’s how the A-10 is going to be this season. We had the right kid that we wanted shooting a jump shot and [Holmes] hit a huge shot. I thought my kids fought down to the end and we were a possession away from winning this game. And that’s where you want to be.”

GW got out to a slow start after a back-and-forth first few minutes, allowing Charlotte to build an early lead with an 8-0 scoring run. While the Colonials would strike back with an 8-3 run of their own to close out the half,  it was Charlotte’s presence on the boards that took them into the half with a 28-25 lead. The 49ers thrived off of second chance points in the first, using eight offensive rebounds to post 13 put-back points as they dominated the paint for 22 of their 28 first half points.

“We got out touched on the boards but that’s because our size and we’re going to have to fight every game if we want rebounds,” Bozeman said. “[Senior forward] Tara Booker is six feet on a good day. She was playing against a very formidable front line and she gets 11 rebounds she’s a three guard and [redshirt junior forward] Brooke Wilson is a three guard, and I’m asking them to play the four and five position. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Mike Bozeman, womens basketball

Head coach Mike Bozeman is visibly upset after one of his players, sophomore forward Chelisa Painter, was injured with just minutes to go in the game. Michelle Rattinger | Senior Photo Editor

Playing one of her most complete games of the season, Booker paced the Colonials with 15 points, including a long three-pointer with three and a half minutes to play to bring the Colonials within one possession of the lead. The trey sparked a 7-0 run for the Colonials that culminated in junior guard Megan Nipe sinking a long range two-pointer to give the Colonials their first lead in over 36 minutes. Jackson finished with 14 points, and junior forward Shi-Heria Shipp scored 10. Booker also made her presence felt on defense, picking up 11 rebounds, four steals, and two blocks.

Although GW’s late rally ultimately came up short, Bozeman was proud of his team’s effort.

“A last second shot won the game, how do you be upset with your team? They fought and they scrapped. Did I want to win? Heck yes. But we will build from it,” he said.

While Charlotte’s 42 percent shooting from the field edged out the 37 percent posted by GW, Bozeman pointed to the lack of rebounding as a key factor in the loss.

Charlotte held a 46-30 advantage on the boards, something GW was able to offset with 18 points off of 19 forced turnovers. Still, Bozeman said, the 49ers presence at the glass was crucial to their gameplan, and he knows the Colonials need to work on supplementing their post play.

“That’s the thing we have to do when we’re dealing with the size issues,” Bozeman said. “We were forcing turnovers of course, but they outrebounded us by sixteen. Our strength is speed and quickness right now. That’s the thing I’m going to talk to the girls about, using our speed and strength.”

Moving forward, the Colonials look to improve their standing in the conference as they head to Rhode Island Jan 18. Bozeman said that picking up intensity early will be key to GW’s success.

“The way we played in the second half is the way we should have played in the first half,” Bozeman said. “There were some instances in the first half we could have capitalized on and we didn’t. We have to come out with that kind of energy in the beginning. The girls are down in the locker room, but they aren’t discouraged.”

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Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 11:05 p.m.

Colonials fall in A-10 road opener

Danni Jackson, women's basketball

Junior guard Danni Jackson's three point baskets helped put the Colonials temporarily in the lead against A-10 foe Richmond Wednesday before the Colonials fell 74-57 to the Spiders. | Hatchet File Photo

The Colonials knew their first A-10 road game would be a challenge as they stared down Richmond, a foe that boasts one of the conference’s top offenses.

What they didn’t know was Richmond’s redshirt junior Rachael Bilney would set a school record en route to a career-high 32 points, as GW (8-8, 1-1) fell 74-57 in their first road conference game of the season.

The Spiders’ guard torched the Colonials defense from behind the arc, draining eight of nine shots from the three-point range, breaking a Richmond record for three-pointers that had not been touched in more than 21 years.

“[Bilney] was on fire,” Bozeman said. “We went to a man-to-man defense to try to deter her. Everything we did, she kept shooting it. I thought that we got away from our game plan. I thought everything that they did in the first half we had an answer for. In the second half they were mentally tougher than us and they stuck to their game plan more then we stuck to ours.”

The Colonials entered the Robins Center ranked second in the A-10 in field-goal percentage defense but immediately felt the pressure of the conference’s top shooting team. Coming off of only their third loss of the season, the Spiders found Bilney for a three only 12 seconds into the half, a trend that would dominate the rest of game.

Colonial senior forward Tara Booker, who was named the A-10 co-player of the week Monday, responded with five of the Colonials first seven points and helped GW to an early lead in a back-and-forth half. After junior guard Danni Jackson drained her second trey to put the Colonials in the lead with just over three minutes in the half, the Spiders answered with nine consecutive points over a one minute and 10 second span as Bilney scored on back-to-back buckets from long range, propelling Richmond to a 32-30 halftime lead.

“The run they made at the end of the half was very important,” Bozeman said. “I thought that there were times when we had control of the game. I thought there were times we had opportunities to stretch the lead and take control of the game.”

GW regained the lead coming out of halftime, but seven consecutive points from the A-10’s leading scorer, Richmond’s Abby Oliver, put the Spiders back on top. As Bilney followed with back-to-back threes for the second time, senior guard Tiana Myers responded with a three of her own and Booker drained a jump shot to cut the deficit to a single point with 10 minutes remaining.

Over the next five minutes, Richmond took the life out of GW as they used a 15-0 scoring run to break the back-and-forth game wide open.

“I thought in the second half they were just mentally tougher than us,” Bozeman said.  “We never quite got onto a roll where we could throw a knockout punch. I thought they got into a rhythm on their offensive end.”

While the Colonials defense has been the most consistent aspect of their game this season, the Richmond offense proved too much to handle as the second half progressed. Richmond shot nearly 49 percent from the floor while GW shot just 38 percent, but it was shooting from deep that the Colonials had no answer for, as the Spiders finished 12-for-18 from behind the arc. Bozeman attributed the poor defensive effort to both a lack of mental toughness as well as simply stunning shooting performance posted by Richmond.

“[Bilney] hit a couple shots that were from 25 feet, but at the same time she did that in the first half and we need to know that we have to guard there,” Bozeman said. “There were a couple times when the shot clock was running down and we helped off of her. Those kind of mental lapses, we have to be a lot tougher mentally. They made us pay for those kind of mistakes.”

Offensively, Booker added yet another solid performance, finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds.  Jackson also scored 14 points and tallied four steals while Myers posted 11 points. Despite a 16-8 advantage for GW off of second-chance points, Richmond scored 25 points off of GW’s 16 turnovers to compensate.

Moving forward, Bozeman pointed to a need to improve his team’s mental toughness from all aspects of the game.

“It’s not all about our physical gifts or our skills set,” Bozeman said. “We have to add the mental toughness, we have to grow and get stronger mentally as a unit. That’s not just the players, that’s the coaches, the managers, the ball boys, that’s everybody. We all have to get tougher mentally so that we can stick to a game plan. We had our shot at this game. Richmond didn’t lose it, they took it.”

The Colonials next play host to Charlotte on Jan 14 at 2 p.m. in the Smith Center.

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Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 8:23 p.m.

Colonials nab victory to open A-10 play

Tara Booker

Senior forward Tara Booker paced GW's offense in its A-10 opener. | File Photo

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.”

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Junior forward Megan Nipe readies for a shot against UDC earlier this season. | File Photo

Just over seven minutes into a back-and-forth first half against District-rival American, senior forward Tara Booker knocked down back-to-back jumpers, giving the Colonials their first lead of the game.

Six minutes later, junior forward Megan Nipe followed suit, sinking back-to-back baskets of her own to extend a 21-10 advantage for GW. Booker and Nipe’s efforts helped to build a lead the team would not relinquish for the rest of the afternoon, and the Colonials (7-7) wrapped up non-conference play with a 60-49 victory over the Eagles. The win ended a streak of three consecutive losses in the series against American.

The women’s basketball team got off to a lackluster start Monday afternoon, turning the ball over four times in three and a half minutes as American jumped out to an early lead. After tightening up their ball handling, the Colonials used an 11-2 scoring run to take a commanding lead over the Eagles, who shot just 25 percent from the field in the first half.

When American hit a three-pointer to post their first points in three minutes, Nipe answered back on the next possession with a trey of her own. Using nine points off of 11 turnovers, the Colonials bested the Eagles by 11 points in the first half with a 37 percent shooting performance from the floor. Providing a spark off the bench, it was Nipe’s hot shooting en route to 10 first half points that guided the Colonials to a comfortable lead as they headed into the locker room.

American found momentum as the second half began, draining 10 of their first 14 attempts from the field while the Colonials’ lead dwindled.  While AU cut the deficit to 7 points in the first couple of minutes, Booker once again knocked down consecutive baskets to keep the Colonials in command. As the Eagles continued to push the pace offensively, junior guard Danni Jackson reasserted a nine-point lead for the Colonials with a bucket from behind the arc to stop a 7-2 scoring run.

American continued to score possession after possession, cutting the Colonials’ lead to just four points with over 12 minutes to play, prompting a timeout from head coach Mike Bozeman. Each side continued to trade baskets and American kept within four points with just under eight minutes left, but Booker once again used the three-ball to take the life out of the Eagles.

After the blistering scoring pace set by the Eagles in the first part of the half, American finished the rest of the second half just 5 of 16 from the field. GW took command for the remainder of the game, pushing their lead to as much as 17 points with the help of a 10-0 scoring run.

Booker and Nipe each finished with game-high 18 point performances, while Booker dominated the glass for eight rebounds and Nipe went a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe. Jackson posted 11 points and five rebounds, while sophomore forward Chelisa Painter scored eight points and grabbed seven boards. While GW shot 42.6 percent from the field on the day, they went 14 of 19 from the free throw line, while American made just one of two.

The Colonials, who have played three games in six days, gear up for the start of A-10 play when they host Fordham Jan. 7 at 5 p.m. in the Smith Center.

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