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Women’s basketball falls short of upset over No. 5 Lady Volunteers

Posted Tuesday, Dec. 30, 11:35 p.m.

The GW women’s basketball team played its closest game yet against No. 5 (Associated Press) Tennessee Tuesday night at the Smith Center but still could not find a way to beat the Lady Volunteers, losing 65-51 and falling to 0-4 in the all-time series between the two teams. The game marked the Colonials’ last game of 2003 and the last before Atlantic 10 play begins next week.

The loss leaves GW at 6-4 with just one more non-conference game at Yale on January 12.

Tennessee head coach Pat Summit started the game off by leaving two starters, senior Tasha Butts and sophomore Shanna Zolman, on the bench. But both soon entered and made their presence felt, finishing the game with a combined 24 points.

The Colonials went down early and struggled to keep the deficit in single digits. Tennessee junior Brittany Jackson scored 10 of her 16 in the first half and the Colonials trailed 37-25 at the half. Senior Ugo Oha was a presence on both sides of the court, tallying five points, five rebounds and four blocks.

“Ugo did a great job,” GW head coach Joe McKeown said. “She really battled again two of the best post players in the country tonight in Ashley Robinson and Shyra Ely.”

The halftime deficit did not discourage the Colonials, as GW put together a surge during the first seven minutes of the second half. The Colonials forced six turnovers in six possessions and cut the lead to four points at the 13:40 mark. However, the Lady Volunteers jumped back out to a 52-37 advantage with 11:32 remaining.

After a GW timeout, McKeown came out with a lineup that included three freshmen- Amanda LoCascio, Kenan Cole and Corrine Turner. Over a three minute span, the rookies helped cut the Tennessee lead to ten.

“(The freshmen) had a really good energy tonight and brought a lot to the table,” McKeown said. “This will prepare them for the A-10 schedule and for the NCAA Tournament where we will need them.”

By the late second half, fatigue set in for the Colonials, who shot 37 percent from the field in the period and missed several uncontested jumpers and lay-ups.

“Defensively we did a great job but offensively we struggled,” McKeown said. “Our poor performance on offense was partly because of good Tennessee defense and partly that we did not finish like we usually do.”

GW starters outscored Tennessee starters 39-32 mainly because Oha, senior Cathy Joens and junior Anna Montanana had 12, 11 and 14, respectively. The three also logged their most minutes of the season, all playing more than 35. The GW bench could not hold their own, though, being outscored 33-12.

Tennessee also out-rebounded GW, 38-30, while grabbing 15 offensive rebounds, which led to 15 second-chance points compared to GW’s six.

Senior point guard Marsheik Witherspoon struggled running the GW offense, turning the ball over nine times and finishing with just two points and no assists in 27 minutes. Montanana brought the ball upcourt for GW during some stretches of the game.

“It’s December 30 and we played well against one of the best programs in the country,” McKeown said. “We will build off this and we will be ready to have good A-10 schedule and this will prepare us for teams at the NCAA Tournament in March.”

The Colonials start 2004 and A-10 schedule with an Ohio road trip in which they will play Xavier (7-3) on Saturday. Then on Monday, the Colonials will square off against Dayton (2-9). The Colonials split the regular season series with Xavier last season, losing their only A-10 game at Xavier in a quadruple overtime thriller, 94-92. GW beat up the Flyers of Dayton last season, sweeping the regular season series and winning by a combined 53 points in the two games.

Saturday, Dec. 27
GW 76, Quinnipiac 54

The GW women’s basketball team responded to last week’s lopsided loss to Florida by blowing out the Quinnipiac University Bobcats Saturday at the Smith Center. The Colonials forced 26 turnovers and recorded 16 steals in the 76-54 victory. GW held the Bobcats to 35 percent shooting from the field and 16 percent shooting from three-point range.

Even though the Colonials (6-3) lost by 17 at the University of Florida last Monday, they still received votes in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll on the strength of victories over Boston College and the University of Oregon in their last two games. But GW missed a ranking in the Top 25 by 42 points.

Senior center Ugo Oha had a strong game defensively against Quinnipiac, blocking four shots. However, Oha only played 18 minutes after picking up three first-half fouls. She finished the game with four fouls – all of which came on the offensive end.

“Sometimes it’s hard for Ugo to play down to a six-footer because of her size. She will have no problems finding a few 6-foot-4 players come Tuesday,” GW head coach Joe McKeown said, referring to the Colonials’ game against the University of Tennessee.

Marsheik Witherspoon and junior Liz Dancause each had four steals to bolster the GW defense.

Quinnipiac (5-3) jumped out to an early 10-6 lead over GW, but the Colonials quickly responded, as Cathy Joens scored 14 first half points, hitting four three-pointers to help her team build a 40-29 lead at the break.

“She has to score for us to be effective and she has been finding different ways to do it,” McKeown said of Joens. “She has not only hit the three but got to the foul line and is getting to the basket better.”

The Colonials pulled away in the second half as Joens finished off the Bobcats, scoring another 14 to finish the game with a season-high 28 points. GW took advantage of frequent Quinnipiac turnovers by getting out on the fast break and junior Anna Montanana led the charge with a number of nice passes in the up-tempo game. She finished with 11 points and six assists, helping her team rack up 32 points off Bobcats turnovers.

With Oha in foul trouble, reigning Atlantic 10 sixth player of the year Valerie Williams logged 21 minutes and finished with 12 points.

“Val Williams has been playing great lately,” McKeown said. “She comes off the bench and gives us great offense and defense.”

With GW leading 71-45 late in the second half, McKeown was able to give minutes to freshmen Kenan Cole and Kristina Gineitis, both of whom have played little as of late.

“Our freshmen are coming along,” McKeown said. “Corrine Turner and Amanda LaCasio have seen minutes in crucial parts of the game. Kristina has been hurt five of the 10 weeks but we hope she will have a better second half to the season. It’s tough for Cole to get minutes because she plays behind Cathy Joens, but we are trying to get her more minutes.”

Cole scored three points in her five minutes of action, while Gineitis scored two points in her three minutes on the floor.

The Quinnipiac top scorers were all seniors, as Sara Esidore had 12 points, Ashlee Kelly had 11 and Katie Keilty added 10. Holding Quinnipiac to 54 points after allowing Florida to score 80 was a positive sign to McKeown.

“For us to win, we can’t give up 80 points,” he said. “We have been doing pretty much the same defense the whole season but maybe I stressed it more in practice.”

The Colonials will face their biggest challenge of the year when 7-1 Tennessee visits the Smith Center Tuesday night. The Lady Volunteers are currently the No. 2 (AP) team in the country, but that will likely change by Tuesday’s 7 p.m. tip-off after Tennessee lost to No. 5 University of Texas Sunday. That loss followed games in the past two weeks in which the Lady Vols needed overtime to defeat both Stanford and DePaul.

GW lost at Tennessee last year, 83-61, and lost to them two years ago at home, 88-57. But there is reason to believe GW has a chance this year, with the Lady Vols’ recent struggles and the Colonials solid play at home.

“I think it’s going to be a great game,” McKeown said. “The team is really ready to play a good game against them after losing the last two years. I think the mystique of playing Tennessee has worn off and we should be able to compete better this year.”

Monday, Dec. 22
Florida 80, GW 63

The GW women’s basketball team could not contain the University of Florida’s offense Monday afternoon in Gainesville, Fla., as the Colonials allowed a season-high 80 points in an 80-63 loss. The loss ends the Colonials’ five-game winning streak and will likely leave GW out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll, which is released Tuesday. GW had entered Monday’s game coming off two straight wins over ranked opponents.

In both of those games, against No. 23 Boston College and No. 21 University of Oregon, the Colonials (5-3) won with defense. But that defense collapsed against Florida (9-2).

The key to stopping the Gators was supposed to be shutting down senior Vanessa Hayden, who was leading Florida with 19.8 points per game. But while she was held to 14 points and eight rebounds, sophomore Bernice Mosby came off the bench and scored 31 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. Mosby had been averaging 14.4 points per game, but her performance Monday led a second-half surge that saw Florida turn a close game into a blowout.

“I think the last 11 minutes, they just ran us out of the gym,” GW head coach Joe McKeown said. “A combination of bad defense and bad offense (led to the loss).”

GW entered the second half trailing Florida 35-29 but drew within two by scoring four quick points. The game stayed tight over the next several minutes until the Gators put together a 15-4 run that gave them a 56-44 lead with 11 minutes remaining. From there, Florida extended its lead and GW never threatened again.

The Gators’ attack had four players score in double figures with junior Natasha Morehead scoring 15 and sophomore Danielle Santos scoring 12 to join Mosby and Hayden.

Seniors Cathy Joens and Ugo Oha led the Colonials offensively, scoring 22 and 18 points, respectively. After being named the Atlantic 10 Player of the Week earlier in the day, Joens struggled, shooting 8-for-21 from the field and 2-for-9 from behind the arc. Senior Valerie Williams came off the bench and had nine points and four rebounds.

The Gators shut down junior forward Anna Montanana, who had five points in 32 minutes. Montanana had been scoring upwards of 20 points per game during the Colonials’ five-game winning streak.

“It was just a rough night for her,” McKeown said. “We will expect her to play well next week.”

Florida out-rebounded GW 51-39 and out-shot GW 46.3 percent to 35.7 percent. The loss marks the first defeat for GW in the last three weeks as they move to 1-1 on the road and 2-2 away from the Smith Center (GW split a pair of games on a neutral court in the Bahamas). But McKeown said he did not expect the loss to affect his team’s confidence.

“Our team has been around,” he said. “They are not going to let a road game in December get them down.”

GW is now unlikely to enter the national rankings, whereas Florida could receive a spot in the Top 25 based on its four-game winning streak that included a blowout of No. 22 University of California-Santa Barbara last week. McKeown said he doesn’t plan on checking the ranking when they are released.

“No, I don’t think I will look tomorrow,” he said. “I will be taking my first day off in December and I will be doing some Christmas shopping.”

The Colonials’ next game is at home Saturday, with a 7 p.m. tip-off against Quinnipac University (5-2), which is currently on a three-game winning streak. Three days later, the Colonials will take on the No. 2 University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers at 7 p.m. at the Smith Center.

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