Courtside

Your Guide to GW sports

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Rob Bartnichak.

With a 59-49 victory at Rhode Island Thursday night, women’s basketball secured its 13th consecutive victory.

Sophomore forward Caira Washington led all players with 17 points and added nine rebounds, while junior forward Jonquel Jones posted her ninth double-double, and fourth in a row, with 10 points and 18 rebounds as well as a game-high five blocks. Senior guard Chakecia Miller also recorded a game leading six assists en route to the ten point GW win.

“I know when you go on the road it’s a war and not the prettiest picture,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “But I’m really proud of the way our kids responded.”

The Colonials (15-2, 4-0) used a familiar game plan to defeat the Rams on the road. GW dominated down low, outrebounding their opponent 52-46 while also outscoring the Rams 34-14 in the paint.

The Colonials came into the contest ranked first in the country with a +15.2 rebounding margin, however, URI finished with 17 second chance points to GW’s 16.

“It was a defensive game today but I believe on the offensive side my teammates worked really hard to try to cut to the basket and I was able to find them,” Miller said.

From the field, the Colonials shot 41.4 percent on the night, going  48.3 percent in the second half. On the other side of the court,  they were able to hold the Rams, who have the worst scoring offense in the Atlantic 1o, to only a 23.2 percent field goal percentage on the night.

Since the start of conference play, Tsipis said GW’s offensive game plan has been helped by developing self awareness.

“We understand who we are,” Tsipis said. “We like to work from the inside out and our guards put themselves in positions knowing that Jonquel and Caira and even Kelli [Prange] are going to see a lot of bodies around themselves.”

GW also got significant help from its bench, as eight different players would put points on the board for the road team. The Colonials would score 18 points off the bench to URI’s 9.

Despite only pulling away during the second half, the Colonials consistently maintained a lead they secured just three minutes into the game, leading by as much as 18 with 12 minutes remaining.

The opening half was a defensive struggle, with the Colonials shooting 35 percent from the field and URI only 20 percent. GW had the biggest lead of the half, leading by eight with just under six minutes remaining, but would head into the locker room up 25-19.

Washington led all players at the half with 8 points and added 4 rebounds, while Jones led the game with 10 first half boards and put up four first half points. The Colonials also outrebounded the Rams 30-24 and had a 16-8 advantage in the paint in the first frame.

The Colonials return to action Sunday when they travel to Amherst to take on Massachusetts.

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Kevin Larsen gets wrapped up by teammate Kethan Savage after Larsen set off the final run of GW's 73-70 double-overtime win against Richmond. Larsen scored a career-high 22 points and added 11 rebounds. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor.

Kethan Savage wraps his arms around teammate Kevin Larsen after Larsen set off the final run of GW’s 73-70 double-overtime win against Richmond. Larsen scored a career-high 22 points and added 11 rebounds. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Kevin Larsen pulled the Colonials within one with the chance to tie on an extra point. He missed, but grabbed a rebound on the other end after Richmond’s Kendall Anthony missed and saved a nearly lost ball by Patricio Garino.

It was a good thing he did for the Colonials, as Joe McDonald then put GW up by two with a corner three.

“They switched and I had [TJ] Cline, kind of stepped out and he kind of backed off, so I got a lot of confidence and I had coach saying shoot it as well,” McDonald said. “I’m glad it went in though.”

His teammates were glad, too. GW never lost the lead, topping Richmond 73-70 in double overtime Thursday.

And while McDonald took the big shot, the Colonials were spurred by a 43-24 mark off the boards, a 19-0 margin in second-chance points and Larsen’s career-high 22 points and 11 rebounds, just a game after he scored zero at La Salle.

“At La Salle, I tried to do too much instead of letting the game come to me, instead of when I just play with the flow, and that’s what I did tonight,” said Larsen, who compared himself to the NBA’s Dwight Howard and Josh Smith as a player who sometimes forces his game.

The Colonials (13-4, 3-1 A-10) had led by as many as 12 points five minutes into the second half, controlling the inside after holding the Spiders (9-8, 2-2 A-10) to just 17 points in the first half on 28.6 percent shooting.

But after GW’s largest lead of the game, Richmond hit three straight 3-pointers – just as the Spiders had done to open the game – and pulled within a possession at 33-30.

They went back and forth, Richmond cutting and setting screens to counteract GW’s size advantage. The Colonials had a three-point lead in the final seconds until they fouled Anthony shooting three, giving the Spiders’ leading scorer the chance to tie with 3.7 seconds left.

“For whatever reason, we backed off of him and then we reached in and that was a smart play by him,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “I’ll take the blame for it, we were definitely going to foul.”

Anthony finished with 20 points, followed by Cline with 16 points and six rebounds. With a series of cuts to the basket, Anthony almost singlehandedly closed the gap in points in the paint from 22-10 at the end of regulation to 28-22, still in GW’s favor.

“I really want to give Patricio [Garino] credit. I thought for maybe 35 minutes … he did a great job on Anthony,” Lonergan said. “I guess we got tired and then he started doing what he does best in getting to the right side and getting to the rim. He’s so quick and for his size. He finishes.”

Kevin Larsen protects the ball against a double-team. Larsen's rebounding helped the Colonials outdo Richmond 43-24 off the boards, allowing the Spiders just two offensive rebounds. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor.

Kevin Larsen protects the ball against a double team. Larsen’s rebounding helped the Colonials outdo Richmond 43-24 off the boards, allowing the Spiders just two offensive rebounds. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor.

Anthony stood at the line, the Smith Center rocked with taunts and cheers, drowning out the sound of each of his shots swishing through the net to take the game to overtime.

Anthony scored four points in the first overtime period, and GW was perfect on four free throws, including two from Savage to tie the game at 58. George Washington’s hatchet could have cut the tension in the air as Savage set up before making his second. GW finished 24-29 from the line, where Savage got nine of his 13 points in just 10 attempts.

Richmond got one more possession. The buzzer sounded with the scoreboard indicating a tie yet again, but there was confusion over whether GW had fouled going down the court. After a couple minutes of arguing and mild impropriety from the Colonial Army, the verdict was decided: no foul and double overtime.

“They were definitely going to video, so I was saying my prayers,” Lonergan said.

Richmond started to foul after McDonald took the lead. The Spiders kept close and drove up the score as Anthony became a one-man scoring machine.

Time ran out in a roaring Smith Center experiencing its first overtime since March 2013, and the Colonials got the win.

GW returns to the Smith Center on Saturday for a 4:30 p.m. matchup with Revolutionary Rivalry foe George Mason.

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This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Rob Bartnichak.

Women’s basketball junior Jonquel Jones was named Atlantic 10 Co-Player of the Week for the second consecutive week, the league announced Monday. She shares the award with Fordham’s Samantha Clark.

The award is Jones’s fourth of the year, which is a league high. She is the only player in the conference to win the award multiple times this year.

With the award, Jones is now the most decorated active player in the conference with five in her career.

The Freeport, Bahamas native averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game in GW’s two victories over Saint Joseph’s and Richmond. Jones shot 59.3 percent from the field and averaged 2 assists and 2 blocks per game.

Jones is the only player in the conference averaging a double-double, leading the league with 11.2 rebounds per game and placing fifth with 16.4 points per game.

Her 54.1 field goal percentage and 1.6 blocks per game rank second and third in the A-10, respectively.

The Naismith Trophy candidate is the first Colonial to win the award four times in a season since Anna Montañana in 2004-05. Jones’s five career awards are the most for a GW player since Montañana won six from 2001-05.

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Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015 1:52 a.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball vs. Richmond

What: GW (12-4, 2-1 A-10) vs. Richmond (9-7, 2-1 A-10)
Where: Smith Center, ESPNU
When: Thursday, Jan. 15 at 7:00 p.m.

Last time out, the Colonials played a sloppy road game against a conference bottom feeder that they matched up badly with.

In taking on Richmond on Thursday, GW will be playing a better overall team than La Salle, but one they are more set up to contain.

Richmond’s style of quick cuts and screens will go up against GW’s 1-3-1 defense and other schemes as the Spiders look to maintain a perfect conference record and GW looks to get another win streak started.

The Case for Richmond:

The Spiders have righted the ship after dropping the final three games of their conference season. Richmond has won their first two Atlantic 10 contests, topping George Mason and St. Bonaventure both by double-digit margins.

They’re also one of two teams (Rhode Island is the other) ranked higher in the A-10 standings than GW in scoring defense. The Spiders are allowing just 58.9 points per game which could be troubling for the Colonials who were stagnant offensively last time out against La Salle.

Kendall Anthony, Terry Allen and TJ Cline lead the team in scoring and all average double figures at 15.6, 11.1 and 10.3 points per game but guard ShawnDre’ Jones is close behind at 8.6. The sophomore scored 25 points on 10-14 shooting last season against GW and is contributing this year to the Spiders’ +2.7 turnover margin with a 45-16 assist-to-turnover ratio.

The Case for GW:

While Richmond is strong defensively, the Spiders are scoring just 62.5 points per game. With the Colonials’ dominance in the Smith Center, Richmond may struggle to put up points on the board.

GW’s strong three point defense should also put a damper on Richmond’s long game. The Spiders make 6.1 threes per contest but are making them at just a .322 percent clip.

Absent an outside shooting game to help them keep up, the Spiders should also struggle inside. Richmond has a conference-worst rebounding margin at -5.6 boards per game and are pulling down just 27.9 rebounds per game.

The Colonials also enter this game with something to prove, a situation in which they often thrive. GW’s loss to La Salle was the first of the conference season and snapped a six game winning streak when no starter scored more than nine points. Head coach Mike Lonergan had the game tape from La Salle shown on the team bus on the way home, so expect some extra energy from the starting five to put the Colonials over the edge at home.

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Patrico Garino goes up for a dunk in GW's 63-50 loss to La Salle on Saturday. The Colonials lost their fourth game of the season, each one having come on the road. Dan Rich | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Patrico Garino goes up for a dunk in the Colonials’ 63-50 loss to La Salle on Saturday, their fourth loss of the season. Each one has come on the road. File Photo by Dan Rich | Hatchet Staff Photographer

When the Colonials narrowly escaped with a four-point win at Saint Joseph’s, head coach Mike Lonergan wasn’t too upset about the nearly blown 20-point lead they had enjoyed midway through the second half.

He was satisfied: GW had won a true road game for just the second time this season.

“Road games are hard,” Lonergan said. “I think it’s 71 percent or whatever that home teams win, and that’s for a reason. That’s why I, we, were happy we beat Saint Joe’s even though we let them back in the game.”

GW’s point totals this season in away games: 42 at Virginia, 54 at Seton Hall, 51 at Penn State and now 50 at La Salle on Saturday, snapping a six-game winning streak. All were losses leaving GW with just one non-conference road win at Rutgers and one so far in A-10 play at Saint Joe’s.

Some of those results can hardly be called bad losses. No one has beaten No. 3 Virginia, No. 19 Seton Hall has upset many top contenders, including Villanova, and entering Penn State’s cult-like domain is notoriously treacherous. La Salle, though, was the worst result and didn’t help show that the Colonials can break serve.

“You don’t want to say, ‘Hey, let’s just win every home game and not worry about the road,’” Lonergan said.

The home court winning percentage for Division I men’s basketball games is 67.48 percent, according to RPIRatings.com. The Wall Street Journal called men’s college basketball the toughest road game in sports. So it isn’t easy to win in someone else’s house.

But to be a contender, that’s what teams have to do, at least some of the time. Last year the Colonials took care of business at St. Bonaventure and George Mason, got to 20 wins for the first time in seven seasons with a big victory in a packed house at Richmond and hung on at Fordham in the regular season closer.

At La Salle, nothing seemed to go right. The only time the Colonials scored in the first 12 minutes of the game was when a La Salle center accidentally tipped a ball in GW’s hoop. On one play, when Patricio Garino got wide open off the break, his dunk attempt slammed off the rim.

“That’s hard to overcome on the road to anybody – we had three of our best players combine for 15 turnovers and these are veterans,” Lonergan said.

That doesn’t mean the team has been abysmal every time it has left the confines of the Smith Center. The Colonials are 4-0 on neutral courts with a win over Charlotte at the BB&T Classic and a 3-0 tournament win at the Diamond Head Classic, including a marquee win over then-No. 11 Wichita State (if anyone needed reminding).

And struggles on the road aren’t exactly new. GW had a 14-1 home record last season but was 6-5 in away games and 4-3 on neutral courts, including at the A-10 Championship and NCAA Tournament. Even La Salle, who the Colonials beat down 69-47 at home late last January, also topped a visiting GW 76-72 earlier that month.

Clearly no road game is an automatic win. The Colonials’ next trip, to Fordham, should be relatively friendly, but the following away games at VCU and Rhode Island will look pretty hairy if GW’s road legs aren’t broken in yet. Lonergan, however, said he thinks they will be.

“In league games anything can happen, so I don’t know. We were definitely in bed early. I thought we were prepared mentally but obviously we weren’t. I’m not looking at it as we can’t win on the road, that’s for sure,” Lonergan said.

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Jonquel Jones drives past a Richmond defender to attempt a shot. Jones finished with a game-high 21 points and 11 rebounds. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Jonquel Jones drives past a Richmond defender to attempt a shot. Jones finished with a game-high 21 points and 11 rebounds. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Josh Solomon.

The lead ballooned to 14 points and head coach Jonathan Tsipis bellowed. His players walked to the sidelines with swagger, the bench on their feet and the head coach thrilled. A few minutes to play, and GW was on its way to extending its win streak to 12 straight.

GW (14-2, 3-0) would go on to win 77-67, though it took some time to find a rhythm against Richmond (9-6, 1-2). It wasn’t until the end of the game that GW pulled away as rebounding – a usual strong suit for the third-highest rebounding team in the country – posed an initial problem for the Colonials.

“Us as a team, we focus on rebounding so much to the point that when we’re off, you feel it,” junior Jonquel Jones said. “Then coach coming into the locker room and putting it up on the board and challenging us to go out there and get on the glass was an eye opener for us as well. We just wanted to come out there and do what we had to do to get the win.”

The challenge worked – GW outscored Richmond 40-34 in the second half. The Colonials flipped the rebounding margin from plus-one at halftime to plus-12 in the second half, out-rebounding the Spiders 25-13, with a 12 to 5 margin on the offensive glass all in the second half.

Scoring, though, was rarely much of an issue for the Colonials. Four players finished in double figures, with Naismith Trophy candidate Jonquel Jones tallying a stat line of 21 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and four blocks.

Jones looked like James out there – LeBron James. As one of the biggest players on the court, she would collect the defensive rebound, head down the court with a full head of steam and finesse her way over smaller bodies to finish for two points. Jones said she worked on that this off season, and that pushing the ball was a goal for the game.

“You know what, when you’re struggling to score it doesn’t take rocket science to throw it number 35,” Tsipis said. “She expects to go 14 for 14.”

On the defensive end, GW was strongest when converting turnovers into baskets. The Colonials finished with 20 points off of turnovers and the Spiders finished with 16 of their own, leading to several runs in a game that Tsipis called a “tale of three things.” Transition baskets were the first of the three, along with increasing ball touches inside and a long 2-3 zone, which halted a Spiders third-best 3-point shooting team to 4-18 behind the arc.

The Colonials held in check Richmond’s redshirt senior Genevieve Okoro, the third-best rebounder in the conference. She finished with four rebounds, four fewer than her average. Jones and sophomore Caira Washington, the first and sixth top rebounders in the conference, respectively, totaled 19 rebounds combined. Washington also added 14 points.

Senior Chakecia Miller helped lead the zone and occasional press. She was a sharp anticipator, finishing with four steals, three coming in the second half. The guard finished with a season-high 16 points, four off her career high, along with six assists.

“That’s what coach emphasized at half time – just play at our pace and just go out at them, attack them,” Miller said. “I think that’s what we did in the second half.”

Sophomore Hannah Schaible and junior Alexis Chandler played important minutes in the second half, knocking down clutch baskets to keep the Colonials’ lead, which shrunk to as little as three points. Schaible was the fourth GW player to reach double digits in the game, with her typical stat-stuffer line of 10 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals.

“It’s great to get the conference win to hold serve at home and then some situations we haven’t had happen in the first 15 games that I think will make us a better team,” Tsipis said.

The win marks 12 straight, keeping them perfect in conference play and likely edging them closer to a top 25 national ranking. The Colonials next play at Rhode Island on Thursday at 7 p.m.

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Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015 4:56 p.m.

Colonials’ win streak snapped at La Salle

Head coach Mike Lonergan talks to his team alongside senior John Kopriva during GW's 63-50 loss at La Salle Saturday afternoon. Dan Rich | Hatchet Staff Photographer.

Head coach Mike Lonergan talks to his team alongside senior John Kopriva during GW’s 63-50 loss at La Salle on Saturday. Dan Rich | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Sophomore guard Nick Griffin hit three consecutive three-pointers in the first half to minimize, if only for a moment, the double-digit lead La Salle held nearly all game.

But down 17 with just over 12 minutes to play in the game, Griffin, the only Colonial who seemed to be on his game Saturday afternoon, air balled his final attempt from beyond the arc, embodying a frazzled road team that would lose to the Explorers 63-50, without ever finding a rhythm offensively.

“[The game] was just disappointing. [La Salle] was well-prepared, their defensive intensity was terrific and they just jumped all over us. We couldn’t even run an offense.” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “They exposed a lot of our weaknesses, but hopefully it’s a one-game thing. The score wasn’t indicative of the beating they put on us.”

Freshman forward Yuta Watanabe led the struggling offense with 12 points off the bench, followed by Griffin and junior guard Patricio Garino who each had nine. Junior forward Kevin Larsen recorded a team-high eight rebounds but had zero points on the day.

“I thought we gave [Kevin] the ball a lot, especially in the first half, and he had zero assists and five turnovers. It was kind of like the Virginia game – he was throwing the ball all over the place,” Lonergan said. “[Kevin] looked like he was tired. He was having trouble even getting up and down the court, his back was hurting a little he said.”

But the 6-foot-10 forward was not the only Colonial performing poorly.

GW’s five starters struggled and looked out of sync from the beginning, combining for just an anemic six points in the first half. The Colonials doubled the Explorers’ turnover total in the first half, racking up 14 giveaways with five coming in the first five minutes of play.

Junior point guard Joe McDonald handles the ball against La Salle on Saturday. The Explorers' pressure led starters McDonald, Kevin Larsen and Kethan Savage to combine for 15 of GW's 20 turnovers in the loss for the Colonials. Dan Rich | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Junior point guard Joe McDonald handles the ball against La Salle on Saturday. The Explorers’ pressure led starters McDonald, Kevin Larsen and Kethan Savage to combine for 15 of GW’s 20 turnovers in the loss for the Colonials. Dan Rich | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The Colonials would end the day with 20 turnovers to La Salle’s 14, a steep increase from GW’s average of 11.8 per game, with Larsen and junior guards Joe McDonald and Kethan Savage combining for 15.

“Sometimes you can overcome one guy not playing well or two guys, but the halftime turnovers were incredible. You can’t give them that many possessions, especially when we’re trying to score,” Lonergan said.

While GW searched for its game, La Salle had no trouble scoring. Sophomore guards Jordan Price and Cleon Roberts led the game with 20 and 15 points respectively, while Roberts also contributed six rebounds to cushion senior center Steve Zack’s game-leading 11 boards.

La Salle, desperate for its first conference win, would finish the day leading nearly every statistical category including shooting, rebounding, steals, blocks and assists. The Explorers shot 44.7 percent on the game while GW hit only 39.5 percent of its attempts from the field.

“[La Salle] was on us the entire time,” McDonald said. “It took us out of our game and what we really wanted to do and that was wrong on our part. We really should have stuck to our game plan, but you have to give a lot of credit to [La Salle] because they came out strong from the get-go.”

Freshman guard Darian Bryant also sustained an apparent wrist injury, Lonergan said, and did not return to the game.

La Salle’s victory snaps a six-game GW win streak and deals the Colonials their first conference loss and fourth overall loss of the season, with each dropped contest coming on the road.

“We were definitely in bed early. I thought we were prepared mentally, but obviously we weren’t,” Lonergan said. “But I’m not looking at it like we can’t win on the road, that’s for sure.”

The Colonials return to action Thursday night when they battle Richmond at the Smith Center.

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Friday, Jan. 9, 2015 9:24 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball at La Salle

What: Men’s basketball (12-3, 2-0 A-10) vs. La Salle (8-7, 0-2 A-10)
When: Saturday, Jan. 10 at 12:30 p.m.
Where: Tom Gola Arena, Philadelphia, Pa.

Just a week after a 64-60 road win over Saint Joseph’s, the Colonials return to Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon to take on Atlantic 10 foe La Salle in their third conference game of the season.

GW will look to remain undefeated in A-10 play and extend a six-game win streak, which matches the longest for the team under head coach Mike Lonergan. The Colonials narrowly topped Saint Louis at home Tuesday night and must stay focused against a La Salle team that won 76-72 at home against GW last year.

After three consecutive non-conference wins, the Explorers dropped their first two conference games to George Mason and Massachusetts and currently sit at the bottom of the A-10 with three other 0-2 teams. The Colonials are the statistical favorite, but expect La Salle to play with passion as the team searches for its first A-10 victory on a court GW hasn’t won on since 2011.

The case for La Salle:
Sophomore guard Jordan Price ranks third in the A-10 in scoring, averaging an impressive 17.1 points per game, but has combined for only 14 points in the team’s first two conference games. If Price can find his game, the Colonials may have trouble defending the versatile shooter.

While the Colonials rebound as a team, averaging 38 per game, La Salle depends on seniors Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright, who are averaging a team-leading 8.5 and 7.3 rebounds per game respectively. If the big men perform and receive help from teammates on the boards, La Salle may have a shot at snapping GW’s win streak.

One of the few statistical categories in which the Explorers lead the Colonials is free-throw shooting. To pull off an upset, La Salle will need to play aggressively against a lockdown GW defense and get to the foul line.

The case for GW:
Despite dropping their first game against the Explorers last season, the Colonials responded with a dominant 69-47 win when the teams met again at the Smith Center on Jan. 29.

Juniors Patricio Garino, Kethan Savage and Kevin Larsen are all scoring in double figures and will be able to best the Explorers’ defense if they remain composed.

Defensively, the Colonials also hold a clear edge. GW ranks 31st nationally in points allowed per game, 70th in blocks and 83rd in rebounds, while La Salle ranks 125th or worse in all three categories.

All signs point to GW in this early conference matchup, but expect La Salle to come out hungry and keep it close.

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Sophomore guard Hannah Schaible goes to the basket in a game earlier this season. Schaible stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals in GW's 83-69 win over Saint Joseph's. Hatchet File Photo by Dan Rich | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Sophomore guard Hannah Schaible goes to the basket in a game earlier this season. Schaible stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals in GW’s 83-69 win over Saint Joseph’s. File Photo by Dan Rich | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Updated: Jan. 8, 2015 at 8:28 p.m.

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Alex Kist.

GW took down Saint Joseph’s 83-69 by dismantling the Hawks’ offense prowess with a clear game plan: use accurate entry passes to feed the post and capitalize on a dominant game inside with fast-break chances.

It worked, giving the Colonials their 11th straight win and moving GW to 2-0 in conference play.

Sophomore forward Caira Washington knocked down a game-high 23 points, while junior forward Jonquel Jones and sophomore guard Hannah Schaible followed suit with double-digit finishes, racking up 16 and 14 points, respectively. Jones notched her fifth double-double in the last six games, her seventh of the season, with 14 rebounds.

“It’s great to be able to come back off a high emotional game like Sunday and not feel like we were lackadaisical to start the game,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “We were pretty focused, and I think you have to key our leadership and understanding of we can get great shots if Caira and Jonquel get touches because it opens everything up for everyone else on the floor.”

GW came out swinging, building an 11-point lead early capped by two free throws from senior guard Lauren Chase.

Chase kept the momentum going with back-to-back dimes. She fed the posts, finding Jones and freshman forward Kelli Prange to put the Colonials up 19-7.

But the Colonials began to have trouble pulling away from the Hawks and became stagnant offensively. After allowing the Hawks to be within four (32-28), the Colonials were able to storm back with shutdown defense after Tsipis called a timeout.

Freshman Caira Washington goes up for a shot last season. Washington scored 23 points for the second straight game as the Colonials won their eleventh straight. Hatchet File Photo

Then-freshman Caira Washington goes up for a shot last season. Washington scored 23 points for the second straight game as the Colonials won their 11th straight. Hatchet File Photo

To close out the first period, GW went on a commanding 11-2 run in the final two minutes to elevate to a 13-point lead. The Colonials entered the locker room after sophomore Shannon Cranshaw laid it in at the horn to propel her team to its largest lead at 43-30.

When the entry passes from the guards were spot on, the posts were able to take care of the ball, especially with two post players missing from the Hawks’ lineup due to injury. GW had a 50-20 advantage in the paint and shot over 47 percent to Saint Joe’s 39.

“During half time, we told them we had to crash the boards harder and get on the board, make sure we follow the long shots and box out,” Washington said.

With strong offensive rebounds, GW retained the advantage in the paint and towered over the Hawks by 20 points. The Colonials succeeded with 47 total rebounds, 17 on the offensive side, while Saint Joe’s pulled down just 35. GW had an 18-0 advantage in fast-break points and a 25-10 mark in second-chance points.

But the Hawks played up to their strengths along the perimeter and knocked on the door well into the second, helped by GW’s 1-9 shooting on three pointers after the halfway mark.

Saint Joe’s cut the lead to eight after an impressive 3-pointer with 3:53 left in regulation, but GW worked the clock and kept a safe distance. Schaible took the final layup of the match with one second left on the shot clock.

As the Colonials await their next rival this weekend, Washington said the team has some refining to do.

“We need to work on not allowing the other team to get to the line and keep playing GW basketball, which is a fast-paced, up-tempo kind of play,” Washington said. “We need to get everybody involved and get the post plays to crash hard.”

The Colonials return home to the Smith Center next, matching up with Richmond on Saturday at 2 p.m.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
In a photo caption, The Hatchet incorrectly referred to Caira Washington as a freshman. Though the photo was taken during Washington’s freshman year, she is now a sophomore. We regret this error.

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Coach Lonergan calls for a foul as the game tightens up in the second half. The Colonials scored 43 points in the second half to overcome their 8 point halftime deficit and defeat the Billikens 75-72. Francis Rivera | Senior Staff Photographer

Head coach Mike Lonergan calls for a foul as the game tightens up in the second half. The Colonials scored 43 points in the second half to overcome their eight-point halftime deficit and defeat the Billikens 75-72. Francis Rivera | Senior Staff Photographer

For a team that has beaten the Colonials in each of its last three tries, it wouldn’t seem like a lead would be surprising.

But the faces in the Smith Center midway through GW’s Atlantic 10 home opener against Saint Louis on Tuesday showed a mix of dismay and disbelief.

The Billikens came into the game on a two-game losing streak with an 8-6 record, rebuilding from the A-10 regular season championship squad that lost all five starters last season. But they were winning. Winning a strange first half where both teams were shooting near 60 percent, but winning.

They were winning, precisely, until Joe McDonald hit his second of a pair of free throws to tie the game at 49 with 12:19 to play. The Colonials hung on to win 75-72, beating Saint Louis to go to 2-0 in A-10 play and 12-3 overall. McDonald finished with 11 points and five rebounds as one of five Colonials to finish in double figures, led by Patricio Garino’s 18 points with six rebounds.

“We’re not a consistent team yet but we’re a good team, and hopefully we’ll learn that you have to play hard against everybody and that was a good game, a good win for us,” head coach Mike Lonergan said.

Just five minutes before McDonald hit his shot, Saint Louis had led by 12.

GW’s defense was wearing Saint Louis down, goading the Billikens as they passed around trying to find a look until Milik Yarbrough, who finished with a game-high 26 points, had a rare miss on a desperate attempt as the buzzer sounded. The shot was too strong and clanged off the far rim.

Just after, the Colonials got the ball up to Kevin Larsen who was double teamed in the low post. Still, he muscled it up, but as he banked the ball of the glass, it rolled off the basket. Larsen picked it up off the floor and slammed it against his own forehead several times. He had gotten fouled, but only made one of the free throws.

Adding insult to injury, Saint Louis hit another one of 11 threes in the game on the next possession.

“We came out a little flat, myself included. I try to tell myself, ‘You’ve got to work harder in the second half. Lead by example and play your butt off,’” Larsen said.

But Larsen – who finished with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists – got another shot after McDonald miraculously saved GW’s next chance on offense, throwing his body for a falling rebound and hitting an easy bucket in the low post, the kind he’d been unable to establish earlier in the game. The Colonials managed just two offensive rebounds in the first half, but ended with a 17-6 edge in second-chance points with 10 offensive boards in the second half.

A couple plays after Larsen scored, Saint Louis missed the same kind of easy layup that just didn’t go in. Then Yuta Watanabe hit a three and GW was down by only two, bringing the crowd to its feet.

Watanabe also hit the go-ahead three pointer and finished with 10 points and three rebounds.

“He’s tremendous,” Garino said. “I think his energy is very, very necessary from the bench.”

Junior Patricio Garino nails a jumper towards the end of the first half. Garino had 18 points and 6 rebounds, leading the Colonials in both categories as they topped the Billikens 75-72 on Tuesday night in the Smith Center. Francis Rivera | Senior Staff Photographer

Junior Patricio Garino nails a jumper toward the end of the first half. Garino had 18 points and six rebounds, leading the Colonials in both categories as they topped the Billikens 75-72 on Tuesday night in the Smith Center. Francis Rivera | Senior Staff Photographer

Watanabe was the hero again at the last second when the Colonials got another scare after going back and forth with the Billikens, who tied the score twice late.

Saint Louis, down by three, got the ball back after an overthrown pass lost a possession for the Colonials. They hadn’t gotten a shot off with less than two seconds left in the game, but Larsen kicked the ball out of bounds and the Billikens got to reset. They managed a last-dash attempt for three, but Watanabe blocked it to seal the win.

The Colonials got just enough plays – eight steals, three from Garino, which helped the Colonials outscore the Billikens 19-7 off turnovers, an eventual 31-25 rebounding margin and a 34-24 edge in the paint, ending the game 23-34 from the free-throw line after starting 1-8 – to stop the Billikens, who shot nearly 55 percent in the game, and just enough for the Colonials to beat Saint Louis for the first time since 2011.

But Lonergan said he wasn’t thinking about previous wins or previous years, and that he’s expecting the Colonials, not the Billikens, to play the part of the A-10 elite.

“It’s time for us to beat everybody, hopefully, so I don’t look at it as we hadn’t beaten Saint Louis,” Lonergan said.

The Colonials go back on the road next, visiting La Salle on Saturday for a 12:30 p.m. tipoff against the Explorers.

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