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The GW Hatchet

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PAUL closes in Western Market
By Ella Mitchell, Staff Writer • April 22, 2024

Women pull off second straight upset of Top 25 team

Posted Friday, Dec. 19, 12:57 a.m.

To find the origin of why the GW women’s basketball team dominated the University of Oregon at the Smith Center Thursday night, you actually have to look back more than 15 years.

At that time, GW head coach Joe McKeown was at New Mexico State University, and he was learning the intricacies of a special zone defense from Fred Litzenberger, then an assistant men’s coach at Colorado State University.

That version of the zone defense, called “Blizzard,” completely shut down the No. 21 (Associated Press) Ducks’ offense, as they shot 33.8 percent in a 72-52 loss to GW (5-2). And the irony of it all is that the Oregon women (8-2), who are off to their best start in program history, could have just looked to their men’s team for help.

“(Litzenberger’s) an assistant at Oregon now,” McKeown said. “So it’s pretty ironic that we used ‘blizzard’ to beat Oregon.”

The Ducks’ leading scorer, junior center Andrea Bliss, could not find any room in the zone and did not score her first basket until 3:09 remained in a blowout. Bliss, who averages 13.6 points per game, finished with four points on the night on 2-for-11 shooting. She also had five of Oregon’s 18 turnovers.

Conversely, the Colonials’ offense had no problems scoring on Oregon, as GW shot 50 percent for the game and 44.4 percent on three-pointers. Senior Cathy Joens hit 8-of-10 field goals and all three of her shots from behind the arc to lead GW with 19 points while adding eight rebounds and four assists. The Colonials’ other two stars, senior Ugo Oha and junior Anna Montanana, also reached double figures with 15 and 12 points, respectively.

“Our stats were exactly what you’re looking for as a coach,” McKeown said. “And we only turned the ball over 11 times, and for us that’s monumental.”

The Colonials had averaged 21 turnovers coming into the game.

The Ducks started out well, scoring the game’s first six points, but GW went on a 32-5 run over the next 10 minutes to gain a 21-point advantage. Oregon then ended the half with 21-5 run of its own to cut GW’s lead to 37-32 at halftime.

“I just felt like we were in complete control when it was 30-11,” McKeown said. “And then it just got funky and we had some breakdowns…C.J. got knocked down and a kid hit a three. Marsheik (Whitherspoon) blocked a shot, the ball came loose and a kid hit a three. But it wasn’t in the flow of (their) offense. I thought we were defending pretty well, then I look up, and we’re not scoring. So I just told our kids at halftime, you’re doing everything right and things just unraveled a little.”

That halftime speech worked, as GW started the second half with a 10-0 run and Oregon never threatened again. In fact, the Ducks did not score their first point of the second half until six minutes had elapsed, and by that time they were down 17 again. Oregon’s only open shots came when GW was slow shifting to the weak side of the zone, but that wasn’t often and the teams would trade baskets the rest of the way.

Senior forward Valerie Williams joined Joens, Oha and Montanana in double figures, scoring 11 points while grabbing five rebounds. Oregon sophomore forward Carolyn Ganes scored 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting as the Ducks’ only player in double figures.

This was the second upset in a row for the Colonials, who knocked off then-No. 23 Boston College eight days ago in a overtime, 76-75. GW has now won five in a row after dropping its first two games to Georgetown and Penn State University.

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