If the GW women’s basketball team had squared off with the University of Georgia in the NCAA Tournament a year or two ago, the game probably would not have taken place in the first round.
This year, though, GW, the 10th seed in the East, and Georgia, the seventh seed, will play Friday at 8:30 p.m. in Storrs, Conn. for the right to move on to the tournament’s second round.
GW (19-9), which has made the NCAA Tournament seven of the past eight years, was only seeded as low as 10th in its first tournament appearance in 1991.
Georgia, which played in the NCAA Tournament’s final game in 1996 and has appeared in four Final Fours in the program’s history, is in the midst of a below-average season as well. The Lady Bulldogs (17-10), an at-large selection out of the Southeastern Conference, lost five seniors from last season’s squad, which made it to the Elite Eight.
“Sure, they might have lost five seniors, but we lost three very good players of our own (Tajama Abraham, Lisa Cermignano and Colleen McCrea),” GW head coach Joe McKeown said. “But they’ve been able to put the pieces back together, and so have we.”
Georgia’s success this year can be attributed in large part to the performance of Kelly and Coco Miller, twin freshmen who are the team’s leading scorers at 17.5 points per game and 16.4 points per game, respectively.
“They’re phenomenal,” McKeown said. “For freshmen to play at such a high level is just amazing.” Kelly, in addition to leading the team in scoring, also averages about six rebounds and six assists per game. The twins also both shoot better than 35 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
While the match-up of the Miller twins against GW’s backcourt of Elisa Aguilar, Marlo Egleston and Chasity Myers should prove interesting, McKeown said for GW to win, it must play well inside.
“We’ve got to get some production out of our post players, like Khadija Deas and Mandisa Turner,” McKeown said. “And Noelia (Gomez) has to play the way she normally does. We need her scoring and her court sense on the floor, so she has to stay out of foul trouble.” Gomez, at 17.6 ppg, averages more points than both members of Georgia’s starting frontcourt combined.
The coaching match-up in the game is one of the best women’s basketball has to offer. Andy Landers, the head coach of the Lady Bulldogs, is 459-139 in his 19th season at Georgia. McKeown, with a win against Georgia, will have recorded his eighth straight 20-win season.