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George Washington coach needs lesson on current Zags

GW’s Tsipis calls GU’s Fortier ‘Julie’

You can, perhaps, forgive a coach who gives an interview in the heat of the moment after learning his team’s seeding for a game across the country against an unfamiliar opponent. George Washington coach Jonathan Tsipis told his school’s website that his No. 19 Colonials were heading to Corvallis, Oregon, as the No. 6 seed to take on a historically-good Gonzaga team as the No. 11 seed on Friday at 4:30 p.m. “Obviously they have a great tradition, just like GW, at Gonzaga with Coach (Kelly) Graves, and obviously carrying over to his assistant … that’s taken over,” Tsipis said in the clip recorded on Monday. “I’m excited and I think Julie has done a great job there in her first year.” Lisa Fortier, in her first year guiding the Zags, has seen the video. She respectfully declined to comment about “Julie” on Tuesday. But one name Zags fans will get to know very well by the time Friday ends is Jonquel Jones. The George Washington junior post is a load. The 6-foot-4 Jones is the reigning Atlantic 10 player of the year and defensive player of the year. Jones leads the Colonials (29-3) in scoring at 15.5 points a game and she also averages 12.4 rebounds a game, good enough for sixth nationally. “Jones is a tough player,” Fortier said. “She plays like a guard with the length and strength of a post player.” The Colonials (RPI 11), based in Washington D.C., get to the glass. They lead the nation by averaging 13.9 more rebounds than their opponents. Behind Jones, is 6-2 forward Caira Washington, who averages 12.4 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. Like Jones, Washington was named to the A-10’s all-conference first team. “They definitely have mobile post players with a lot of length,” Fortier said of the Colonials. “They love to run. But we like a fast-paced game. I think it will be a good thing for us as long as we can execute in transition.” Gonzaga (RPI 39) struggled early in the season, and in a couple late losses, with turnovers. “We’ve been trying all year long to focus on that,” Fortier said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve said that I want us to make the simple play. Turnovers come when we try to do too much.” Like they did in dominating the West Coast Conference, the Bulldogs will throw a host of tall players at George Washington. Countering Jones inside will be 6-5 centers Shelby Cheslek and Emma Wolfram. Senior forward Sunny Greinacher, 6-4, leads the Zags with 13.7 points a game. “I’m glad that we have length to throw at them inside,” Fortier said. “They are very good fundamentally in the half-court. They make you work for everything.” George Washington enters the tournament after having won both the conference regular-season and tournament titles. “I think we are playing our best basketball,” Tsipis said in the video. “I’m happy for our players. As a coach, it’s great because I feel like we put the GW program back to where we feel like is its rightful place … to be in the top 20 and to be going to the NCAA tournament.” The Colonials are dancing for first time since 2008, but for the 16th time in team history. That compares to eight for the Zags, including seven consecutive trips. “There are a lot of similarities between our two teams,” Fortier said. “I think it’s going to be a nice matchup for us. I think it will probably be entertaining to watch.”
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