This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Josh Solomon.
Head coach Jonathan Tsipis runs a blitz defense. But like a defensive coordinator, he doesn’t typically like to talk about it, or tip it off, much.
At the beginning of this season, the women’s basketball team reprised the fast-paced, aggressive defense that Tsipis had introduced in his first year. The Colonials came out in a three-quarter press, often switching between a 1-3-1 and 2-2-1 alignment; But the head coach didn’t want to talk about it in detail – didn’t want to give away his game plan.
Coming into Monday night’s game against a grind-it-out, low-scoring Loyola team that predicates itself on ball movement, Tsipis decided to switch it up. He called for a full-court press, making use of his small and fast three-guard lineup.
After 24 turnovers and just seven assists – 11 of those turnovers coming from the Greyhounds’ point guards – resulting in a 56-50 GW (5-4) win at the Smith Center, Tsipis finally wanted to talk about defense.
He detailed his game plan, saying he wanted to wear down Loyola by limiting the Greyhounds to the amount of passing they could do. By running the full-court press, the Colonials could eat time off the shot clock before the Greyhounds got into their offense, shortening possession time and limiting time for good looks.
“We played all man tonight, but we tried to change our presses in a couple ways,” Tsipis said.
GW used the speed of their small lineup, featuring graduate students Danni Jackson and Megan Nipe along with defensive centerpiece, junior Chakecia Miller. Rotating in to keep the lineup quick were sophomores Alexis Chandler and Aaliyah Brown, and freshman Shannon Cranshaw.
“I challenged [Cha]Kecia, Danni and Alexis Chandler to really pressure. And when I look down at the stat line and see their point guards have one assist and 11 turnovers, I think they did a really good job with that,” Tsipis said.
Part of the reason the Colonials needed to execute this uptempo defense to match their usually high powered offense – averaging 89.8 points per win heading into the game – was because of a lack of frontcourt depth.
Three of the team’s forwards have been unable to suit up for GW over the last few games. 6-foot-2 graduate student Brooke Wilson is still sidelined with limited minutes due to injury, sophomore Anjaleace White – who led the freshmen in minutes last year – is still not fully active in practice as she nurses a hamstring injury and sophomore Jonquel Jones remains in street clothes during game day due to NCAA transfer rules.
Regardless of size, Tsipis likes his squad to play fast and force turnovers, causing teams to be off-balanced. Throughout the first nine games of the season, he has featured various press defenses, half-court zones and man-to-man looks, all to pressure the ball handler up the court and leave them constantly having to adjust.
“We’ve really been focusing on being active and making them feel uncomfortable when they have the ball. And the pressure on the ball results in steals for us off the ball,” said freshman Hannah Schaible who had seven points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals on the night.
In the first half alone against Loyola, the press resulted in one ten-second violation and 12 steals for the Colonials. If GW can continue to cause chaos for its opponents, and dive for every loose ball like Schaible does, the Colonials could find themselves with a perfect balance to their high-scoring offense.