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Jonathan Tsipis

Senior Chakecia Miller drives past a Bowie State defender on Wednesday. Miller scored 10 points in GW's home opener win. File Photo by Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Senior Chakecia Miller drives past a Bowie State defender Wednesday. Miller scored 10 points in GW’s home opener win. File Photo by Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Alex Kist.

Through three games, GW has the Atlantic 10’s best point margin, clocking in at nearly 14 points more per game than opponents.

More noteworthy, though, is that the team is doing it while shooting in the middle of the pack, seventh in the conference with a 37 percent mark from the field.

While the team is clearly scoring, it isn’t sharp-shooting its way to success. Instead, GW is using an active defense to fuel its offense and filling the stat sheet, especially with a strong perimeter defense. That’s what the team did in its home opener Wednesday, when GW overpowered Bowie State (Division II) 88-45.

The Colonials’ game plan was to field a multi-dimensional defense: boxing out in the paint and forcing turnovers around the perimeter. GW caused 28 Bowie State turnovers during the game and scored 31 points off the extra possessions.

“I thought we were active defensively. We pushed in transition how we liked, we attacked. We didn’t allow them to get set in a defense even when they were trying to get in the zone early on because of how the posts were running, how the wings were running,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said.

The Colonials amassed more than triple the steals of their opponent, forcing the team to rely on scoring in the paint, where Bowie State was only outscored 28-34, but refusing them anything else. GW stole the ball 19 times to Bowie State’s six.

That was perhaps to be expected: The Colonials also lead the league in steals, averaging over 13 per game, nearly three more than the second-ranked team, VCU. GW is also ranked second in turnover margin, getting four more than they give per game.

Those numbers illustrate that, to date, the perimeter defense has been airtight, especially in protecting the three pointer. Bowie State made just one of seven attempts from downtown, while American made just one of 11 attempts.

There’s definitely a flip side: In GW’s sole loss against Florida Gulf Coast University, the Eagles shot nearly 50 percent from beyond the arc and made seven threes, a critical component of the team’s win over the Colonials.

Lauren Chase File Photo by Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Lauren Chase had 10 assists in GW’s home opener win. File Photo by Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

“We have been able to chase people off the three point line,” Tsipis said. “We are making people shoot contested threes, which leads to a long shot or long rebound that can really help us get out and get in transition.”

Senior Lauren Chase acted as the floor general, completing 10 assists by reading the floor and feeding the post. Tsipis said she made great decisions and achieved his goal of 10 assists, hitting seven within the first 10 minutes of play.

When the Colonials seek revenge Saturday against No. 9 Maryland for the Terps’ blowout win over GW last year, Tsipis said the team will focus on staying steady at the line, minimizing fouls and continuing fast transitions.

“We need to be able to guard better with our feet. We are still putting arms on people and we fouled a couple jump shooters tonight,” Tsipis said.

Against a top team like the Terps, foul trouble could spell the GW’s demise. But more important, perhaps, could be the Colonials’ ability to continue making the outside unfriendly territory as the team faces its first true test at home. Tip-off is Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

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This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Rob Bartnichak.

Women’s basketball dug deep through its depth chart on the way to an 88-45 crushing of Bowie State (Division II) in GW’s home opener Wednesday, moving to 2-1 with its second consecutive win.

GW scored 46 points off the bench and 37 from freshmen players, who saw significant playing time. Sophomore Caira Washington led the Colonials with 13 points and added five rebounds, while freshman Kelli Prange led the team with nine rebounds.

“An opportunity in your home opener to get everybody involved, our freshman, their first points of the year, is important,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said.

GW led in every major team category, scoring 34 points in the paint, 31 off 28 turnovers, 17 second-chance points and 20 fast-break points. The team shot 43.5 percent from the field and 29 percent from beyond the arc.

Washington said the success scoring off turnovers was particularly important, and that it hints at the shape of the team’s identity this season.

“We’re a team that wants to get up and go, and that starts on defense,” Washington said. “We pressure the ball and come in on transition.”

Washington was able to play 20 minutes and fouled just once, unlike her four against American that barred Tsipis from using her in more than 13 minutes of the game, and Tsipis said staying out of foul trouble was key to the entire Colonials defense.

Bowie State shot only 14.3 percent from three-point range, and Tsipis praised the defense for its smart play and ability to avoid fouling.

“It has to be the backbone of our team,” Tsipis said. “Tonight, whether it was a press or a half court, the understanding of not sending people to the line was a huge key and gave people confidence.”

Washington, who was selected to the Preseason Atlantic 10 Second Team, almost tripled her season point total after scoring only five against American and being held scoreless against Florida Gulf Coast.

Senior Chakecia Miller drives past a Bowie State defender on Wednesday. Miller scored 10 points in GW's home opener win. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Senior Chakecia Miller drives past a Bowie State defender on Wednesday. Miller scored 10 points in GW’s home-opener win. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

“I can bring more to the team than scoring,” Washington said. “Those two games, I still rebounded and worked to get my teammates open, but today I was much more active.”

Senior Lauren Chase was the only player in the game to record 10 assists, which Tsipis said was a goal he had set for her.

GW was able to start the game off fast with an impressive first half. The Colonials jumped out to a 22-6 lead in the first four minutes, and only turned the ball over a total of four times in the opening frame.

“We started with a great amount of intensity, and I thought we were active defensively,” Tsipis said. “We pushed in transition how we like and we didn’t allow them to get set in a defense.”

GW shot 44 percent in the first half and 35.7 percent from three-point range. Senior Chakecia Miller led the Colonials with 10 points before halftime, with freshman Mia Farmer in second with nine on three three-pointers.

The Colonials padded their first half lead not just with shooting, but also size in the paint and on the boards. GW out-rebounded BSU 27-20, scored 20 points in the paint and scored 15 on the second chance.

With the win, GW now looks to Saturday for a matchup against No. 9 Maryland in the Smith Center. Tsipis said Preseason A-10 First Team Selection junior Jonquel Jones is set to return Saturday, but is unsure what her role will be.

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Some moments were messy, some were tense, and though head coach Jonathan Tsipis’ patented foot-stomp came out once or twice, the Colonials pulled their record to an even .500 with their first win of the season, topping American on the road 63-52.

An 18-4 first-half run gave the Colonials some breathing room going into halftime, but a resurgent shooting game for American made it tight in the second half before GW could pull away with the win.

“Obviously not picture perfect,” Tsipis said. “There’s a reason that American is fifth in the country in [scoring defense] last year because they’re going to pack length, they’re going to dare you to shoot jumpers, and I think the last 10 minutes we didn’t settle for those.”

For the second game in a row, freshman Kelli Prange led GW in scoring with 16 points while adding nine rebounds. She scored the first four GW points of the second half, including a long jumper, and got to the line, making four free throws on five attempts.

She did so without the help of Jonquel Jones, who sat out the game after missing Friday’s contest due to injury, and with Caira Washington getting into early foul trouble and playing just 13 minutes. Despite Prange’s performance, the Colonial had a tough day in the paint where they were outscored by American 28-22, struggling inside early in particular. GW ended the first half getting outscored 12-4 in the paint.

“I kind of feel like the tempo was offbeat in the first half, and we were driving to the lane where American really clogs it up. That’s their defense,” Prange said. “So in the second half, we really noticed that, so we were finding open people, and it was just finding that open person and making that extra pass.”

After the Eagles, a WNIT team from last year, made it a one-possession game 30-33 with about 14 minutes to go, Washington came back in the game. She scored the next GW points, getting open inside and up to the net to lay in a pass from Schaible.

“When Caira’s been on the floor, she’s been fine, but we’ve got to make sure that we keep her on the floor,” Tsipis said. “I thought we tried to go directly to Caira when we brought her back in, and she had a couple really good plays.”

American responded with two made free throws by All-Patriot League Preseason First Team selection Jen Dumiak, a layup, and a three to go up by five, 44-39, with nine minutes to play. But GW followed up with a 14-2 run spurred by Prange and good free throws.

Brianna Cummings gave the Colonials a 10-point lead with two minutes left to play when her extra shot fell after drawing the foul on a layup that got the whole GW bench on its feet. She ended the game the third leading scorer for the Colonials with 10 points and added a game-high 10 rebounds, four of which came off the offensive glass.

GW was able to contain Dumiak, holding her to just two field goals on eight attempts, but she did lead the Eagles in scoring after making nine free throws in 10 attempts to finish with 13 total points. She played every minute of the game despite struggling with the Colonials’ man-to-man coverage, which pushed her into nine of the Eagles’ 25 turnovers.

“I think we did a good job – even when we didn’t turn them over – of making them play faster than they wanted to at times,” Tsipis said.

The win gives the Colonials some momentum in the middle of a packed stretch of games. They will take on Bowie State on Wednesday before hosting No. 9 Maryland on Saturday.

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This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Rob Bartnichak.

Women’s basketball signed its first two members of the 2015-16 recruiting class to National Letters of Intent, head coach Jonathan Tsipis announced Wednesday.

Point guard Mei-Lyn Bautista (Saint Mary’s High School, N.Y.) and forward Kelsi Mahoney (Jay M. Robinson High School, N.C.) will join the Colonials next year.

Bautista led her team to a Nassau Suffolk Catholic High School Athletic Association title and the Catholic state semifinals as a junior. The two-time Newsday All-Long Island selection averaged 13 points, nine assists and six steals per game last season.

Mahoney was named Cabarrus County Player of the Year last season after averaging a double-double with 13.8 points and 11 rebounds. The 6-foot-1 post was an all-district selection twice and a three-time all-conference and all-county selection. She is on pace to reach 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds during her senior year.

“Mei-Lyn and Kelsi will make an impact at GW because they have been leaders on their high school basketball teams and been recognized by their high schools for being leaders among their peers,” Tsipis said in a release. “I am excited to have the opportunity to coach them and watch them share their talents with the entire GW community.”

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Then-junior guard Chakecia Miller squeezes pass a George Mason defender for a layup last season. File Photo by Aly Kruse | Hatchet Photographer

Then-junior guard Chakecia Miller squeezes pass a George Mason defender for a layup last season. File Photo by Aly Kruse | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Rob Bartnichak.

Last season, women’s basketball had a perfect record when scoring 70 points or more in a game. But in the team’s season opener Friday at Florida Gulf Coast, the defense could not hold up in an 88-75 loss to the Eagles.

Freshman Kelli Prange started in place of junior Jonquel Jones, who missed the game due to illness, and led the Colonials with a double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds, but the team allowed FGCU to shoot 51 percent in the loss.

“If you score 75 points on the road, you should be able to win,” Tsipis said. “A lot of it was on the other end of the floor where we’ve got to be better.”

GW allowed FGCU to score in droves by committing 25 turnovers, which the Eagles converted into 26 points.

The team seemed to have trouble communicating, with players scoring for themselves and sharing the ball rarely with only nine assists in the game.

“You’re not going to win a lot of games, home or away, when you have nine assists and 25 turnovers,” Tsipis said. “But you can’t spend time worrying about what happened in the last game.”

Tsipis said the Eagles’ willingness to both take three-point shots and forgo them created some confusion on defense, which allowed FGCU to take back momentum in the game. FGCU made seven of 15 attempted threes during the game.

GW jumped to an early lead, going ahead by as much as 10 points five minutes into the first half. But then FGCU took a lead it would never relinquish with 6:30 remaining in the first.

“I thought we started out playing a pace that we wanted,” Tsipis said. “But Florida Gulf Coast just did a better job in the last five or six minutes.”

The Colonials came within one point with 5:22 left in the second half, but were unable to pull ahead.

Tsipis said early foul trouble also allowed the Eagles to stage a late first-half comeback. Sophomore guard Hannah Schaible and sophomore forward Caira Washington were both taken out of the game in the first half after recording two fouls each.

In their absence, Prange found space for a breakout performance. Of her 12 rebounds, seven came off the offensive glass, and Prange also had a block and two assists in the game.

“I just wanted to go into the game and have fun really,” Prange said. “I just went in with an open mind without really knowing what to expect from my first official college game.”

Even with the loss, Tsipis said he was happy with the way his team came back in the second half and succeeded in the rebound battle, beating FGCU off the boards 49-30 in total rebounds during the game. He said the game was scheduled early in the season knowing the Colonials would face a well-prepared team that played in the postseason last year.

“Now we’re going on the road again, so it’s an opportunity for us to be really mature,” Tsipis said. “But we need to understand that if we’re better defensively, that’s going to give us a better opportunity to win.”

The Colonials will be back in action against American on Monday at 5 p.m. on the road.

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Couldn’t watch the basketball teams’ media day? Both men’s head coach Mike Lonergan and women’s head coach Jonathan Tsipis spoke to the press about their upcoming seasons.

Tsipis spoke about building his program back up to the historical strength of GW women’s basketball and the strength of his freshmen class. Tsipis’ team was picked to finish second by other Atlantic 10 coaches.

Lonergan talked about how his team will perform with higher expectations – they were also picked to finish second in the A-10 – and how the return of projected top-100 scorer Kethan Savage will impact the team.

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What was conceived last year slammed into the Smith Center with a bang Friday night.

It was men’s basketball junior Patricio Garino’s winning bucket in the Colonials Invasion dunk competition, the finale of the event that introduced the men’s and women’s basketball teams to GW fans and built excitement for the upcoming season.

Garino got the idea for his dunk – which he caught off a lob from teammate Kevin Larsen up in the Smith Center balcony – last year, but he was sidelined from the competition with an injury. Now, Garino said the team is not focusing on the past.

“Last year means nothing. This year, we’re going for more,” Garino said to fans before executing his dunk, which earned a perfect score.

After two successful seasons for the men and women last year, the stands packed with students and parents surged with anticipation, and higher expectations, for what’s next.

Both men’s head coach Mike Lonergan and women’s head coach Jonathan Tsipis called on the crowd to come out to games and give GW a strong home-court advantage at the Smith Center. Tsipis told the crowd to make it not just the toughest place to play in the A-10, but in the nation.

“The crowds were really good, especially at the end of the season, and we’re hoping it carries over,” Lonergan said. “Tonight’s kind of a good start. I know it got me fired up because it really means the season’s quickly approaching.”

The evening was an opportunity for the fans to meet some of the characters of the new season: the 12 new additions to men’s and women’s basketball.

Freshmen Darian Bryant and Yuta Watanabe were featured in the dunk contest, and all new roster members made their debuts in front of the crowds after introductions from their families and friends were projected on the Smith Center’s jumbotron.

Still, fans should hope that Bryant and Watanabe got their growing pains out at Colonials Invasion and before the season begins. There were more misses than makes in their portions of the dunk contest, and though Bryant’s alleyoop after twizzling his body around under the basket earned creativity points from the judges, he and Watanabe could not escape some playful ribbing from their coach.

“Yuta was working on them earlier but he kept missing,” Lonergan said. “I’m glad that Pato saved the day because the dunk contest was a little shaky early.”

The event also featured artistic performances throughout the night. Student athletes from men’s and women’s soccer, men’s water polo and swimming and diving made appearances as announcers for groups like Bhangra, the Voice Gospel Choir and Capital Funk. Gymnastics started off the evening, flipping and twisting along a springboard on the arena floor.

But after the dancers had left the stage, after the lights came back on and the hazy puffs of the fog machine had settled, both basketball teams stayed on the court as the crowd trailed out, letting it sink in that their show has yet to begin.

“We got a lot of good publicity. It gave us some momentum and got our program back on the map,” Lonergan said. “But what that means is we’ve got to be ready. We’ve got to give everybody their best shot, we can’t surprise anybody anymore.”

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Star forward Jonquel Jones charges to the basket during a game last season. Hatchet File Photo

Star forward Jonquel Jones charges to the basket during a game last season. Hatchet File Photo

Women’s basketball will play at least 12 of last year’s postseason teams as part of its 27-game regular season schedule, the team announced Thursday.

The Colonials full schedule includes at least 11 non-conference games before a 16-game Atlantic 10 slate. Three of GW’s games will be broadcast on national television.

“We have a very demanding schedule this year with six non-conference opponents who played in the postseason last year, including four in the NCAA Tournament,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said in a release. “We always want our non-conference schedule to prepare us for the challenges of Atlantic 10 play, where every game is a battle.”

Before their regular season opener against Florida Gulf Coast University, the Colonials will play an exhibition game at home against Virginia Union on Nov. 9. The first official home game will be against Bowie State on Nov. 19.

Following Bowie State, 2014 Final Four team Maryland will come to the Smith Center on Nov. 22. It will be the second year in a row that GW has hosted a team coming off a Final Four run. Last November, the Colonials upset then-No. 10 California at home.

“The ability to have top-10 teams play in the Smith Center on a yearly basis is a great opportunity for our program,” Tsipis said. “We look forward to packing the arena for this game – and every game – like we did for the White Out against Cal last year.”

GW will take on at least 12 opponents that were ranked in the NCAA’s top 100 in RPI last season. The team will play Dayton (16) twice during A-10 play and N.C. State (18) in the opener of the Junkanoo Jam on Nov. 28. The Colonials could also face Purdue (9) in the Bahamas-based tournament.

An additional game could be added to the non-conference schedule in the coming weeks, according to the team release.

The conference schedule will open against the Flyers on Jan. 4, which will be broadcast on ESPNU. Then on Feb. 8, the Colonials will host Dayton at the Smith Center, a game that’s scheduled to be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. The CBS Sports Network will also air GW’s road game at Massachusetts on Jan. 18.

A tough stretch of conference games for GW comes in mid-February, with three-straight match ups against teams that played in the postseason last year. The Colonials will host St. Bonaventure, which advanced to the second round of last year’s WNIT tournament, on Feb. 15 before heading to VCU, another WNIT team, on Feb. 18. On Feb. 21, GW will host Fordham, the defending A-10 champion.

The A-10 Championship will once again be held at the Richmond Coliseum, and will take place from March 4 to 8.

Nine letterwinners return from last year’s 23-11 team, the most successful season for GW in six years. The team posted an 11-5 record in A-10 play, and made it to the conference semifinals before ending the year in the third round of the WNIT – the program’s first postseason game since 2008. Five freshman have joined the team who will play alongside returners like A-10 All-Conference Second Team selection Jonquel Jones and A-10 Rookie of the Year Caira Washington.

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After ending last season with an 11-5 record at home, women's basketball head coach Jonathan Tsipis will look to take his team far into the NCAA tournament this year. Hatchet File Photo

After ending last season with an 11-5 record at home, women’s basketball head coach Jonathan Tsipis will look to take his team far into the NCAA tournament this year. Hatchet File Photo

The women’s basketball team will host last year’s regular season champion and NCAA Tournament participant Dayton, Atlantic 10 champion Fordham, Saint Joseph’s and conference newcomer Davidson as part of its eight-game home matchups and 16-game A-10 Conference schedule.

The Colonials will also host Duquesne, George Mason, Richmond and St. Bonaventure, the league announced Monday. GW ended last season with an impressive 15-3 at home.

On the road, the team will face Dayton, George Mason, Richmond, La Salle, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Saint Louis and Women’s National Invitation Tournament participant VCU. The Colonials finished at .500 on the road last season, ending the year with a 6-6 record.

GW finished last season with a 23-11 overall record, a nine-win improvement from the 2012-13 season. The Colonials earned a bid to the WNIT and advanced to the third round, where they were knocked out by the University of South Florida. GW’s two postseason victories were its first since 2008.

With arguably the best recruiting class in the A-10, the Colonials are on track to carry last season’s success into the coming year.

The team will announce a full schedule at a later date.

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Drexel assistant coach Melissa Dunne will join the women’s basketball team as an assistant to head coach Jonathan Tsipis, the athletics department announced Wednesday.

Dunne will fill the vacancy left by associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Megan Duffy, who stepped down after two years at GW to join the coaching staff at the University of Michigan.

“As a coach, I have always been impressed by how she has developed guards, especially point guards,” Tsipis said about Dunne in a release. “The Drexel teams she was a part of were always very detail-oriented and scouted opponents precisely.”

Dunne knows the Atlantic 10 league well from her four years as a point guard at Temple, where she earned an A-10 title as team captain in 2002. A point guard, Dunne was named the team’s most improved player in 1999.

“Coach Tsipis is a proven leader and I am committed to contributing to make GW not only the best team in the Atlantic 10 Conference but also among the best in the country,” Dunne said in the release.

While earning her master’s degree in public communication at Drexel, she joined the team’s staff as a graduate assistant coach in 2006. Dunne left for an assistant coaching job at Rhode Island for the 2006-07 season, and after a year with the Rams, she returned to Drexel as a recruiting coordinator.

Since her return, the Dragons have built up a 140-88 record and made the postseason five times. They secured an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament in 2009 as the Colonial Athletic Association champions. During her first year back at Drexel, the team posted an 8.5-game improvement over the previous season.

As a recruiter, Dunne boasted a class that was ranked No. 8 on ESPN’s list of the Top 20 Mid-Major Recruiting Classes and 13 CAA All-Conference team members.

She’ll look to build on a 2014-15 class of Colonials ranked the best in the A-10. Last season, GW improved its record by nine games.

“As the recruiting coordinator at Drexel, she is well-respected by the [Amateur Athletic Union] and high school coaching community for her hard work and dedication,” Tsipis said.

The Brigantine, N.J. native will specialize in coaching the team’s guards, and Tspis said she has a particular flair for developing talent at the point. Dunne’s Drexel teams led the CAA in assist-to-turnover ratio during three separate years and have ranked among the NCAA’s top-35 in that category every year she has coached them.

Dunne will be tasked with developing newcomers Brianna Cummings, Mia Farmer and Camila Tapias, while working with returning guards like Chakecia Miller and Hannah Schaible to fill the holes left by star guards Danni Jackson and Megan Nipe.

Dunne is also a defensive specialist, with a record of guiding the Dragons to the top of the CAA in points allowed. She led them to eighth best in the NCAA at 51.4 points per game in 2012-13. The Colonials will value her expertise after leaning on a defense-first strategy in 2013-14, though they relied more heavily on their 76.1 points scored per game than their 68.9 points allowed.

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