This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Josh Solomon.
Graduate student Megan Nipe remembers a time when getting just 10 wins would’ve been an accomplishment for her and the women’s basketball team.
A time when making it to the WNIT seemed like a dream.
Thursday night, with the Colonials three-game WNIT run and remarkable 2013-14 season coming to an end, she could say one thing for certain: times have changed.
“It’s hard to be sad because I’ve been at GW when we were hoping for double digit wins,” graduate student Megan Nipe said. “We never thought making a run in the postseason was possible.”
Shooting 31.9 percent from the field and getting out-rebounded 56-45, GW would close its season with a 74-59 loss to South Florida – one of the first four teams out of the NCAA Tournament.
GW cut it to a six-point game with just over four minutes to play, but the Bulls scored eight-straight points to solidify the win.
All season long a big ‘what if’ hung over a Colonials team stacked with talent and veteran leadership: Could they all play together healthy?
As they started their run in the WNIT, taking down East Carolina and Villanova, the answer was a ‘yes.’
With those tools all at the disposal of head coach Jonathan Tsipis against USF, it was supposed to be a tight matchup. But, it turns out that a completely healthy postseason run wasn’t the complete truth.
It was known that Nipe, who injured her knee back in December, had been playing through the injury while wearing a brace. After Thursday’s game, though, Tsipis announced that his sharp-shooting leader had not only been playing with a brace – but with a torn ACL.
“I’d be willing to say that nobody else in the country would be willing to wait three months and play it out,” Tsipis said. “She really built an unbelievable legacy with playing to finish her last year with that.”
Foul trouble plagued the Colonials early on as the Bulls went on a 14-1 run to pull away and go up 16 at the half – the lowest scoring half of the season for GW.
Sophomore Jonquel Jones picked up her second foul with over 10 minutes to play in the first half. With freshman Hannah Schaible also out with two fouls, Tsipis gambled to bring Jones back in. But eight seconds later, the Colonials offensive focal point had her third foul.
“You want to go fighting down to the end with everything you have and that’s what I felt like we did even with the foul trouble. Our kids didn’t back down,” Tsipis said.
Jones would come back to help fuel GW’s second half comeback, ending with 15 points and nine rebounds. Fellow post presence, freshman Caira Washington, had the better statistical night, with 14 points,15 rebounds and five blocks.
“Things just didn’t go our way,” Washington said. “We kept saying that we had to pick up all the little things, rebounding, boxing out and just communicating.”
In the first half, Nipe held the team afloat. She went 4-for-5 from behind the arc and provided the much-needed spark to keep the Colonials in the game.
Meanwhile, the Bulls did not had a tremendous game from the field, shooting 40.8 percent and going 2-8 for three. What they did do, though, was take care of the ball and have four players score in double digits.
USF sophomore guard Courtney Martin led all scorers with 24 points, dominating the first half. Meanwhile, sophomore forward Alisia Jenkins cleaned up the glass with 12 boards – seven offensive rebounds – and 11 points.
GW kept fifth-year senior, 6-foot-2 shooting guard Inga Orekhova, in check almost the entire game, until her shot finally started to fall late in the second half. With over five minutes to play, the Colonials cut the lead to seven points, but Orekhova hit her first 3-pointer of the game to answer.
“They continued to attack,” Tsipis said. “They put the ball in Orekohva and Williams hands late and those kids stepped up and made their free throws.”
Statistically, graduate student Danni Jackson had a rough night: 2-18 from the field and six turnovers. But she continued to push the tempo and look for her teammates as she had all season, en route to her 200th assist of the season. Jackson finished with 204 dimes, good for second all-time in a single season.
Nipe and her best friend Jackson walked back to the locker room with their arms around each other, just talking.
In all, the Colonials finished tied for second in the A-10, Washington won conference Rookie of the Year, Jones quickly became one of the most dynamic scoring threats that GW has had in a while, and Jackson continued to leave a legacy as one of the greatest point guards in GW history.
A season of accomplishments for a program who met their preseason goal – to raise a banner.