This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Josh Solomon.
GW wasn’t the only one that escaped with a win in its quarterfinal matchup. Just minutes before the Colonials stepped onto the court to warm up, No. 1 seeded Dayton was cooling down.
The Flyers survived a one-point victory over the eighth-seeded VCU Rams, after stealing the ball with six seconds left in a tied game and laying it up. Now, GW will have to take on the regular-season champions a week after defeating them at Smith Center, 88-79.
More than a semifinal game:
The goal for the Colonials all season has been to win the A-10 championship and raise a banner. That obviously requires them to defeat Dayton first, but a second win over the conference’s top team could also be enough in itself to clinch a NCAA tournament bid.
“Whatever happens tomorrow night, we’re either going to have a chance to play for an NCAA tournament bid or I know my kids will go fighting all the way until the final buzzer goes off,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said.
The women’s A-10 conference typically gets two to three tickets to the Big Dance, with it being two the last two years. The winner of the conference championship is an automatic bid and with its 22-6 record, Dayton is essentially a lock.
If GW can defeat the Flyers, but loses in the finals, the A-10 may find itself with three bids: Dayton, GW and the tournament winner.
As of March 4, ESPN’s Bracketologist Charlie Creme had the A-10 pegged with two bids: Dayton as a six-seed and Saint Joseph’s as a nine-seed. After GW’s win, the Hawks may very well be knocked out from the NCAA tournament.
GW and Dayton split the season series, with the Colonials earning the most recent upset. That game was senior day at the Smith Center.
GW, particularly graduate students Megan Nipe and Danni Jackson, rallied around the homecourt crowd. Down in Richmond, no sense of that home court advantage will be behind their backs.
The Colonials were without graduate student Brooke Wilson for the regular season finale, and tomorrow morning, they may additionally have to play without junior Chakecia Miller. The All-Defensive team guard appeared to hurt her back in the last five minutes of regulation against Saint Joe’s.
“The kids are so close, they wanted to be able to bring that home,” Tsipis said. “It was great that she could still enjoy that moment and be on the bench. I know she’s hurt, but we’ll see.”
Without Miller, who helped keep A-10 player of the year – junior Andrea Hoover – in check, the Colonials will have to dig further into their bench and ask for more minutes from their starters. It will be key for freshmen Caira Washington and Hannah Schaible to avoid foul trouble. Sophomore Alexis Chandler, after a strong 15 minutes in the quarterfinals, will likely see even more minutes, regardless if Miller plays.
In the upset win, GW rode the strength of the its rebounding, winning the battle on the boards, 49-34. They kept one of the top free-throw shooting teams in the country off the line, also winning the advantage at the line, 15-5.
It’s likely Dayton will work hard to stop GW’s bigs this time around, meaning more open shots for Jackson and Nipe. Perhaps freshman Shannon Cranshaw will display her 3-point shooting abilities on the big stage – just a year removed from winning a state title in Florida.