Sophomore Brianna Cummings fights for a basket in GW’s loss to VCU on Feb. 20. On Saturday in Richmond, the Colonials exacted revenge over the Rams in a 72–58 A-10 semi-final decision. Camille Ramasastry | Hatchet Photographer
This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Matt Cullen.
Just 14 days ago, the Colonials matched up against the Rams on Senior Night. They lost that game by 11 points, their second in a row, ending their home winning streak and falling further in the conference standings.
In the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinal Saturday, the Colonials got their revenge through a balanced attack and top-tier defense, defeating VCU 72–58 at the Richmond Coliseum.
“Two weeks ago VCU was the better team and was the tougher team. We have only been outrebounded three times in two years and they outrebounded us that day. We talked a lot about ‘could we be the tougher team?’,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “But when you are trying to take steps to win a championship, it is going to be a lot more than just motivation and I think our kids were really locked in.”
Right after the tip-off the Colonials (25-6 13-3, A-10) were sticking to their strengths: playing in transition and rebounding everything. They scored eight points in transition and collected 13 rebounds in the first frame alone.
Despite two possessions in a row with offensive fouls, the GW offense finished the first quarter leading 19–11, going through graduate student guard Lauren Chase on nearly every play.
“We tried to force them to play faster because we are a game ahead. Our legs should be better,” Tsipis said.
GW started off the second quarter with early fouls and multiple missed free throw attempts that allowed the Rams (23-8, 12-6 A-10) to bring the game within four points six minutes before halftime.
Senior forward Jonquel Jones stepped up for the Colonials and seemed to be all over the court defensively. GW then embarked on a run to capture a double-digit advantage for a short time.
Even though Jones didn’t start and played somewhat limited minutes, she had quite a game. Jones notched a double-double with 11 points and 18 rebounds while recording 4 blocks in the paint. She and junior forward Caira Washington combined for 13 offensive rebounds and paced the Colonials to a dominating performance on the boards.
“We just wanted to stick to what we do and for us that’s being one of the best rebounding teams in the country. So, we took it to heart when, last game, we lost the rebounding battle,” Jones said.
The half finished off with neither team having the momentum after matching blocking fouls slowed down the last 15 seconds. After being tied or ahead for the entire game, the Colonials went into the half leading 37–31.
VCU junior guard Ashley Pegram was the Rams leading offensive attack in the first half, scoring 13 points on perfect shooting inside the paint. The Colonials put Chase on her defensively and she was shut down for the rest of the game, shooting just 0-for-2 from the field.
The second half started with a quick jumper from Rams junior guard Isis Thorpe but on the next possessions, the defense picked up.
The Colonials turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions, but the play on their side of the floor was top-notch. VCU made zero of their next 13 field goal attempts and failed to score for the next seven minutes.
The defensive stint, combined with an and-one layup that Jones converted in traffic, supplied the Colonials with lots of energy that carried them to a 53–38 lead going into the final frame.
With less than 10 minutes to go, VCU put on the press. They forced some turnovers, drew a couple fouls, and got momentum on their side. They brought it down to a six-point game with less than two minutes left and forced Jones to pick up her fifth and final foul.
“In these tournament games you know everyone is going to give you their best, they are going to play for 40 minutes and try to use every single tactic to get you out of the game,” Washington said. “We just have to stay up, keep talking to our teammates, and play our hardest.”
The remainder of the game brought the crowd to the edges of their seats. Until the final seconds it seemed like the aggressive Rams team had a chance, but strong interior defense and good free throw shooting at the end sealed the deal to send the Colonials to the A-10 Championship.
Thorpe was ice-cold from the floor after leading the Rams in scoring two weeks ago at the Smith Center. She went 1-for-12 from the field on Saturday and only added four points.
“[Thorpe] had success last time we played them,” Tsipis said. “This time around we started some different people and moved some people around, knowing if someone did get hot we could move Lauren Chase around a bit to guard a hot hand. But, also Hannah Schaible and Brianna Cummings have become better defenders.”
With the win, the Colonials move on to the A-10 Championship final where they will take on No. 3-seed Duquesne on Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.
“We are really excited to have a chance to play for a championship tomorrow,” Tsipis said. “We had several goals, first was to be the regular-season champion and then obviously to come back here again.”