Alexander, Egleston spark GW’s upset of No.7 Rutgers

The GW women’s basketball team upset No. 7 Rutgers University 63-58 in front of 2,533 screaming fans at the Smith Center Saturday night.

GW seniors Marlo Egleston and Starr Jefferson and junior Kristeena Alexander sparked the Colonial women, who overcame a 3-of-23 (13 percent) first-half shooting performance to find victory.

The exciting win for the Colonial women showed the team’s ability to compete for 40 minutes and win an emotional game despite struggling from the perimeter throughout. GW also withstood a Rutgers surge late after forging a double-digit lead in the second half.

It was a big win for us and something we needed mentally, Egleston said.

GW (3-2) sprinted out to an early 11-2 lead in the first three minutes of the game. Junior Petra Dubovcova opened the scoring with a three-pointer from the top of the key 25 seconds into the game. After two Egleston free-throws and a Rutgers basket by Christina Fowler, Egleston took over the next minute of the game with consecutive three-point field goals, igniting the GW faithful.

It was important to come out and start out up, Egleston said. It was something we really needed.

But the senior’s basket would be GW’s final field goal of the half. The Colonial women went 18:33 without a field goal, a remarkable drought that ended with a Dubovcova layup at 18:35 left in the second half.

Down early in the game, Rutgers stormed back behind senior Usha Gilmore, who scored eight of her 10 points in the first half. GW’s struggling offense enabled the Lady Knights to gradually get back into the game, tying the game at 13-13 with 8:33 remaining in the half.

Egleston, who head coach Joe McKeown rested for a lengthy seven minutes after the senior picked up two early fouls, reentered the game with 7:17 left. A Gilmore jump shot from the baseline gave Rutgers their first lead of the game with 6:35 left. After falling behind 17-13 with 4:35 remaining, Egleston penetrated Rutgers’ extended 2-3 zone defense, drew a foul, and made both free throws.

GW stayed within four points the entire game, an amazingly close margin considering the Colonial women’s poor overall field-goal percentage (14-of-48, .292). McKeown’s team relied heavily on free-throw shooting in the first half to stay close to Rutgers, which shot 11-of-33 (0-of-7 from three-point range) in the opening 20 minutes. GW shot a solid 10-of-12 from the free-throw line (28-for-38 in the game), a huge factor considering GW’s cold shooting and 26-16 first-half rebounding disadvantage.

Down 23-19 at halftime, GW came out in the second half and pounded the boards, penetrating the Rutgers defense and continuing to draw fouls. Jefferson dominated the second-half glass, finishing with a game-high 11 rebounds. Rutgers’ defense fouled freshman Erica Lawrence and Dubovcova early in the second half as GW continued to find its way to the line. The stronger second half inside game of GW enabled Egleston to find herself open behind the arc for a three-pointer with 17:06 left, tying the game at 26. Down 30-26, Jefferson rebounded Dubovcova’s missed second free-throw attempt, scored a layup and drew a foul for a three-point play. Once GW tied the game at 30, Rutgers would not see the lead again.

Kristeena Alexander, who was named Atlantic 10 Player of the Week Sunday, took the game over in the final 15 minutes, scoring all of her game-high 18 points in that span. The speedy junior stole the ball from a Rutgers player and converted the steal into a basket to give GW a 32-30 lead at 14:49. A 10-0 run increased GW’s lead to 36-30 came after an Egleston three-pointer and a Jefferson free-throw. The possession leading up to Egleston’s basket drew a crowd roar after Jefferson stuffed a Rutgers shot from inside the paint.

It was a great college basketball atmosphere, McKeown said. The crowd was phenomenal.

Alexander nailed her first of two three-point field goals to extend GW’s lead to 39-31 with 11 minutes remaining. Alexander’s basket would be GW’s last in a four-minute drought, but consistent free-throw shooting kept the Colonial women’s lead hovering at eight points. A Dubovcova layup and foul shot followed by an Alexander driving basket gave GW its largest lead of the game at 49-37 with just over five minutes left.

The remaining five minutes seemed to last forever as Rutgers shot its way right back into the contest behind consecutive baskets in a 15-second span that cut the lead to 49-43. An Alexander finger-roll layup halted the Lady Knights’ run, but Rutgers came right back when Tasha Pointer scored a basket and also drew a blocking foul on Egleston. Another Egleston foul on the next Rutgers possession led to a free throw, cutting the GW advantage to 51-48 with 3:13 left.

The critical shot for the Colonial women came at 2:45 when Alexander drilled a huge three-pointer. Senior Elisa Aguilar, who shot 0-of-7 from the field, made two free-throws after a Rutgers airball to increase the lead to 56-48. On Aguilar’s struggling shooting performance, McKeown was quick to respond to questioning of the senior’s perimeter game.

(Aguilar) is coming off surgery, and she’s just not ready yet, McKeown said.

The Lady Knights fought back again and closed the lead to 59-56 with 44 seconds remaining. On the next GW possession, Rutgers was looking to hold the Colonial women and get the ball back with a chance to tie the game. But Egleston penetrated and dished the ball to Dubovcova, whose layup thrilled the crowd and gave the Colonial women a 61-56 lead with less than 12 seconds left to seal the victory.

We needed a game like this, McKeown said. It was a big-time atmosphere.

Basketball Notes:

– GW will play next Dec. 7 against the University of Albany at the Smith Center.

– The Colonial women have the 11th-ranked recruiting class in the country according to the Women’s Basketball News Service after signing five recruits during the November signing period. The recruits include 6-5 center Alexis Darling (Corning, N.Y., 12.9 points per game, 11.1 rebounds per game) and 6-4 center Ugo Oha (Houston, Texas, 10.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg). GW also signed 6-2 Valerie Williams (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., 25.5 ppg, 15.5 rpg), who was the 1998 runner-up in statewide voting for Class 1A Player of the Year. Six-foot forward Demetria Tipps (Bay City, Texas, 13 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and 5-5 guard Marsheik Witherspoon (Opa-Locka, Fla., 11.9 ppg, 7.9 apg) round out GW’s recruiting class.

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