With roughly two minutes to play Saturday afternoon and the George Washington women’s basketball team well on its way to a milestone triumph, graduate guard Danni Jackson was dribbling down the left side of the court at Smith Center as Colonials Coach Jonathan Tsipis put up both hands to slow the possession.
Jackson disregarded that decree and lobbed the ball to sophomore forward Jonquel Jones, who scored on a routine layup. All Tsipis could do was smile as his charges were running back on defense, knowing full well the 88-79 victory over No. 21 Dayton belonged not to him but the players, particularly those playing their final home game.
Among those was Jackson, who finished with 17 points and a game-high 12 assists, the second most of her career. Graduate guard-forward Megan Nipe had 18 points and six rebounds, and Jones finished with 22 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Freshman forward Caira Washington added 18 points and 12 rebounds.
“I think on a Senior Day, what a fitting way to have [Jackson and Nipe] be able to lead you right from the opening tip,” said Tsipis, in his second season at GW. “I know it was part of the decision-making process they went through to be able to be in a game like today and compete. We had the confidence that coming in here we weren’t going to give a game away. We were going to try to take it any single possible way we could.”
In reaching 20 wins for the first time since 2007-08, George Washington concluded the regular season by winning four of five and seven of nine to secure a double-bye into the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament. The Colonials finished tied for second in the conference but will be either the No. 3 or 4 seed in the tournament based on tiebreakers. They will play their tournament opener on Friday in Richmond.
The Colonials (20-9, 11-5) beat Dayton, which had won 27 of 28 games in the Atlantic 10, for the first time sine 2009 and have defeated two ranked teams in one season for the first time since 2007-08, the last season of Coach Joe McKeown’s 19-year run in Foggy Bottom. GW beat California, 75-72, in November.
“It’s really an exciting day for Meg and myself,” Jackson said. “We’ve been through so much here at GW, so to beat Dayton at home while they’re the number one seed in our conference and regular season champs, it felt really good. We can go through the stats that we had, but today was just a total team effort.”
Especially in rebounding, where the Colonials held a 49-34 advantage, including 19-12 offensively. GW entered ranked first in the Atlantic 10 in both rebounding margin and offensive rebounding, and the Flyers were second in both categories.
Dayton (21-6, 14-2) entered ranked first in the conference in three-point field goal percentage (45 percent) but missed 19 of 26 attempts against the Colonials. The Flyers shot 1 for 8 from beyond the arc during the first half while GW forged a 14-point lead on the heels of a 12-0 run.
But Dayton closed the first half by scoring eight of the final 10 points before taking its first lead, 50-49, on Amber Deane’s basket with 14 minutes 9 seconds left in regulation. The Flyers had their largest lead, 56-53, when Andrea Hoover swished a three-pointer.
The Colonials responded with six points in a row. Jones put GW ahead to stay with an offensive rebound and layup with 11:11 to play and followed that field goal with a turnaround jumper in the lane.
“It’s a big game. It’s our last regular season game, and it’s Senior Day, so it’s all that rolled into one,” Nipe said. “But I think we prepared very well for it. We were well rested and had a game plan that was clearly effective. The second we stepped onto the court, it just felt right, and we were all ready to go.”