Senior forward Tara Booker tries to grab a rebound against Charlotte earlier this season. | Hatchet File Photo
Momentum was on GW’s side at halftime.
A late burst of energy in the first had propelled the Colonials to a five-point lead at the break, a lead they grabbed after falling behind to the host Owls. In theory, GW should have returned from halftime riding that wave of energy, carrying their rally to open the second half and snatch victory.
In practice, the Colonials (11-14) faltered, allowing Temple’s heavy pressure to disrupt their play. Turnovers, missed shots and shaky rhythm plagued GW’s game, and the Owls ultimately handed the Colonials a 75-54 defeat.
“We went into the halftime feeling very good. I felt like we had the game at the pace we wanted it. And I knew they were Temple, they’re 10-1 in the conference. I knew they were going to come out and make a run, I tried to prepare the girls for that, not to be panicking,” Bozeman said.
Two key statistics told the story of the game. The first, the Colonials’ 10 second-half turnovers, nine of which were Temple steals, shed light on the Owls’ crushing pressure. Though tThe second, the 42-26 Owls edge in rebounds, was a clear indicator of Temple’s dominating presence under the net and in the paint.
The Owls, a conference powerhouse this season, were quick to build off of their ball control. They earned 21 points off of turnovers, as compared to GW’s six, grabbed a 24-8 edge in the paint and netted 14 fast-break points. The Colonials’ lack of control, Bozeman said, was the key factor in the loss.
“All season, we’re going to struggle with rebounding the ball. And there’s not going to be too many games where we’re going to win the rebounding battle. But what we concentrate on and what we’ve been very good at, for most of the season, is controlling the turnovers. Winning the turnover battle,” Bozeman said. “When you get outrebounded in the way we did and you have basically, an even turnover ratio, than you’re going to have a negative outcome.”
Temple opened the day’s play with a quick offensive push. Despite taking some bad shots, the Owls grabbed an 18-6 lead early in the first, using doubleteams to trap junior guard Danni Jackson and shut down GW’s attack.
But the Colonials saw Temple’s poor shot choices and knew they had an opportunity to regain the lead. Turning up the heat on their own defense, GW held the Owls without a shot for over five minutes, using that time to explode on a 21-4 run that gave the Colonials the lead and forced a Temple timeout. GW didn’t break stride, keeping pace to take a slim two-point lead at the break and forcing the Owls’ shooting to drop to 33.3 percent on the half.
“We played like it was no pressure. In the second half, with the opportunity and with being up, we allowed their defense to turn into pressure. And it affected the way we executed our offense,” Bozeman said.
Bozeman thought his team’s play before the break would boost their return to the court. It was an excited locker room at halftime, he said, one that he anticipated maintaining its composure and high-energy performance in the second half.
But it was the Owls who came out shooting, upping their second-half percentage to 64.3, including four three-point shots that helped extend a widening lead over the Colonials. Temple added 45 second-half points that saw five of its players reach double-digits for the second straight game, using a 28-5 opening run to second-half play that decisively halted GW’s attack.
“We controlled the pace more in the first half to the degree where sometimes I had them walking the ball up the court, and in the second half, we had live ball turnovers. And that was a byproduct of the pressure,” Bozeman said. “We allowed them to up the tempo a little bit through those turnovers.”
But just as GW’s defense declined after the break, the Colonials found themselves stymied by Temple’s pressure on the other side of the ball. The Owls held GW without a basket over a ten-minute span halfway through the section, silencing the Colonials’ shots and dropping their shooting to 23.1 percent from the floor, zero from beyond the arc.
GW faltering under pressure, Bozeman said, can be traced back to its depth challenges. Hampered by injury, the Colonials have see many players rotating between playing and being sidelined to the bench. The inconsistency, Bozeman said, makes it hard to maintain and develop a solid rhythm of play.
Some players continue to be a force for GW despite the roster changes. Senior forward/guard Tara Booker and senior guard Tiana Myers both scored 15 points for the Colonials Wednesday, both nabbing two steals and Myers dishing out five assists. As a whole, though, Bozeman said the roster substitutions remain a challenge for his team, disrupting the tightly-controlled offense his game plan requires.
“When you deal with the amount of injuries that we’ve dealt with, it’s one thing to get bodies to come back, but then when you have that and you have to get acclimated to how people play again and it’s just hard to get a flow,” Bozeman said. “When we have those injuries, we’re going back and forth. Somebody’s in, somebody’s out, and you’re shifting people, personnel, adding a volleyball player [sophomore forward Jamie Armstrong] kind of thing. Then you’re still in the development stages and it’s hard to get a rhythm there.”
The Colonials head to Massachusetts Sunday, for a 2 p.m. start. As he looks to the end of the A-10 regular season schedule, Bozeman said he sees his players continue to play hard, and is confident in their ability to rebound from the loss and their injury challenges.
“I really believe that I’m capable of getting us to a point where we can be effective in this tournament. But we just have to finish really well,” Bozeman said. “I thought, believe it or not, from the Richmond game to today’s game, we had a better grip on how we wanted to play.”