This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Josh Solomon.
RICHMOND, VA – This game was about responding.
One of head coach Jonathan Tsipis’ favorite words all season, this Atlantic 10 semifinal matchup came down to who would respond: a Dayton team that had recently been upset by the Colonials or a GW team that was coming off its first quarterfinals win since 2008.
No. 1 seed Dayton would be the one to respond, returning the favor to the Colonials with a 89-68 victory to send GW on the short trip home back from Richmond, Va.
“The motivation came when they smacked us in the mouth last time we were there,” Dayton head coach Jim Jabir said. “They punched us right in the face and it hurt. We came out today and we wanted to return the favor.”
Despite the loss, the season is still alive for GW. Its NCAA tournament hopes are likely tapped out, but a decent seed in the WNIT appears in the future. It will mark their first playoff appearance since 2008.
In a season with so many different injuries and so many different scoring options, GW had to respond to another injury Saturday at the least fortunate time.
Junior Chakecia Miller, who suffered what appeared to be a lower back or hip injury in Friday’s quarterfinals game, had her abilities and minutes limited on the court. The guard may not have been one of GW’s top scoring options, but she was the All-Defensive centerpiece to the Colonials high-intensity defense.
She started the game because Tsipis said he wanted her to jump right in after warmups, but he elected to sit her for all but the first two minutes of the second half, saying her health was more important and knowing that they still have playoff basketball to come.
With the lacking of the normal staunch defensive pressure at the top of the key, GW’s biggest strong suit – rebounding – weakened as well. It was just the second conference game of the season in which GW was out rebounded, 52-44. Sophomore Jonquel Jones led the team with 13 rebounds, four offensive, and freshman Hannah Schaible had a double-double with 10 rebounds, six offensive.
But the Colonials could not collect rebounds when it mattered most.
Going into the locker room at halftime down 39-25, while shooting 18.2 percent on 6-33 shooting, the Colonials closed to single digits on three consecutive trips down the floor in the second half.
With just under 14 and a half minutes to play, graduate student Danni Jackson nailed a jumper, to cut it to 49-40. The Flyers then followed up missed a 3-pointer with two offensive rebounds to get the lead back to double digits.
Jackson went back down and drained another shot, but the Flyers answered right back and collected another two offensive rebounds and a basket.
Although a Nipe jumper would once again cut the lead to single digits, GW would never get that close the rest of the game.
“It’s just really frustrating, especially because we’re a rebounding team and we couldn’t do the thing we’re known to be best at,” said Jackson, who finished with a team-high 19 points, adding to her seven assists and zero turnovers.
The graduate student’s top-scoring effort came on the heels of a career game from Jones against Saint Joseph’s. Jones went from 30 points Friday to just six on 2-12 shooting. Tsipis said Jones made the right decisions on the court, but couldn’t get into a rhythm as her turnaround jumpers rattled in and out.
“Every time we ran something where Jonquel was involved in a cut, there was an element of physicality involved,” Tsipis said.
Jamir tipped his hat to his 6-foot-3 senior center, Cassie Sant, for frustrating Jones from the start. Jamir described Sant’s performance as “masterful” adding that it was her best defensive game of her career.
For Jackson and Nipe, who finished with a combined 11 points on 4-10 shooting, their goal in raising a banner came to an end. But they know they still have postseason basketball ahead of them.
“It was still a tough loss but there was no doubt in my mind that I had another game left so it wasn’t as much emotion, besides anger,” Jackson said.
If GW receives a high seed in the WNIT, the Colonials could be headed back to the Smith Center for postseason play. Seeding for the WNIT will be announced Mar. 17 with the opening round beginning on Mar. 19.