Richmond, VA -- With Jonquel Jones anchoring the paint for the Colonials, easy baskets were hard to come by for VCU. Jones was an unstoppable force in the paint on both ends of the floor, blocking four shots and pulling down a game high 18 rebounds to lead George Washington to a 72-58 win over the Rams. The win catapulted them to the championship match-up with an opportunity to win it all for the second year in a row.
VCU played catch-up nearly all game long, as George Washington started the game off aggressive down low. Ciara Washington started the game off for the Colonials with two straight offensive rebounds, foreshadowing for what would become the theme of the game for the rest of the match-up. George Washington extended half of their first six possessions by crashing the offensive boards, getting easy put-back points.
On the other end, Jones’ active hands on defense made every single shot difficult for the Rams. It was hard enough for VCU to get clean looks at the basket, let alone make them. The Rams’ normally stifling defense was losing its edge; not only were the offensive rebounds from Washington and Jones keeping possessions alive, but the sheer amount of misses generated easy fast break opportunities for the Colonials, allowing them to stretch the lead.
The second quarter was more of the same, as Jones collected rebounds, blocks, and deflections, with the Rams struggling to find any offensive rhythm. The Colonials’ interior presence altered every field goal attempt VCU put up.
The Rams eventually responded with some physical play of their own, getting to the free throw line and making the easy points. Adaeze Alaeze energized VCU on the defensive end with two steals, and the easy baskets started coming as the Rams transition game picked up. It became apparent that VCU’s best shot at closing the gap was to get as many easy points as possible, whether on the break or from the charity stripe.
But with Jonquel Jones in the middle, there’s no such thing as an easy bucket.
Jones and the Colonial threw a block party in the third; the shots that didn’t get sent back were just as ineffective. VCU only found nylon three times in their 19 attempts during the third, including a five minute stretch where the Rams missed all of their 12 shots. Gang rebounding helped them snag a few offensive boards, but the lack of finishing didn’t help their cause.
Meanwhile, a 50% shooting performance from the Colonials helped them stretch the lead to double digits.
Down fifteen at the start of the fourth, VCU needed the momentum of the game to shift back to their side. And shift it did, when Jonquel Jones picked up two quick fouls bringing her total to four, and sending her quickly to the bench. The Rams didn’t wait to take advantage, switching to a full court press and going 3 for 3 on the ensuing possessions, cutting the lead from 16 down to 12.
Colonials head coach Jonathan Tsipis gambled on his star player, sending Jones back into the game one foul from disqualification, with three and a half minutes still to play. The gamble paid off; Jones sent back VCU shots on back to back possessions.
The Rams adjust, taking their chances outside of the paint, giving them more space to slash through the Colonials’ defense. And it worked. Jessica Ogunnorin’s layup with two and a half minutes on the clock cut the lead to six. But George Washington clamped down for the rest of the game, and that layup would the Rams’ last field goal for the rest of the contest.