Smith Center, Colonials defeat Musketeers, 70-68

When the GW women’s basketball team lost at Massachusetts Thursday night, the No. 25 Colonials fell a half-game behind Xavier for the lead in the Atlantic 10 West Division. When Sunday’s contest was complete, the Colonials regained the top spot with a 70-68 comeback victory over Xavier in front of a regular-season record 3,217 Smith Center fans.

GW (21-4, 12-2 A-10) secured itself a first-round bye in the A-10 Tournament in Philadelphia beginning March 3. If GW defeats Dayton at home this Thursday and wins at Duquesne over the weekend, the Colonials would win the A-10 West Division for the sixth time in seven years.

The Colonials’ win over Xavier improves GW’s perfect home record to 14-0, but the loss at UMass gives 21-win GW only a 6-4 road record. GW’s play in the next two weeks will determine whether the Colonials will host two first-round NCAA games.

Thursday night is our last home game of the regular season, McKeown said. We are George Washington; we have hosted two of the past four years the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

GW freshman guard Cathy Joens suffered a sprain of her right foot at UMass and did not play against Xavier. She is listed as day-to-day.

GW 70, Xavier 68
Sunday, Feb. 20

GW overcame Sunday’s 10-point halftime deficit at the Smith Center and defeated Xavier 70-68 to regain sole possession of first place in the A-10 West.

The GW victory snapped the Musketeers’ 11-game winning streak handing Xavier (22-4, 12-3 A-10) its second road loss this season (10-2).

Junior guard Kristeena Alexander scored 14 second-half points (16 total points) to lead a furious Colonial comeback that began with a buzzer-beater to end the Xavier-dominated first half.

I knew I had to make something happen, and I think at halftime when I made that shot, that was the something, Alexander said. And I knew going into halftime, I said, `OK, this is the start.’ So, the rest is history, I guess.

Down 39-27 with five seconds left in the first half, Alexander dribbled down court and nailed a jumpshot just inside the foul line to give the Colonials momentum going into the locker room. Alexander also hit four crucial free-throws down the stretch to hold off Xavier.

Alexander’s first two free-throws came with 18 seconds remaining in a GW-led game 65-63. She was fouled after rebounding Amy Waugh’s (20 points) missed layup attempt that would have tied the game. On the prior possession, GW’s Elisa Aguilar just missed an open three-pointer that would have given the Colonials a five-point advantage.

I’ve been coaching for 20 years now, McKeown said. Did you see Aguilar’s shot go in and then sit on the rim? And it stared at me, I swear the ball was looking right me. The ball was staring at me. We shoulda got at least a point.

Alexander swished both critical free throws and went back to the line with 8.8 seconds left after a quick Waugh layup. The GW junior netted two more, extending the lead to 69-65. Waugh answered again with a three-pointer to cut the GW lead to 69-68 with three seconds. After a Petra Dubovcova free throw for GW with 1.7 seconds on the clock, Xavier threw up a halfcourt prayer at the buzzer, but it hit hard off the glass and bounced away.

The loss was tough to swallow for Xavier Coach Melanie Balcomb.

It was a basketball game in the first half, and it was a war in the second half, Balcomb said. We won the basketball game, we lost the war. It was two totally different halves, and we didn’t win the physical one.

The Colonials’ pressure was evident from the start of the second half as Xavier committed two turnovers and was called for an offensive foul on its first three possessions. GW capitalized on the Xavier mistakes, working the ball inside and scoring the first six points of the half. Down 47-44, Aguilar nailed her fourth three-pointer of the game (4-for-10 from behind the arc) to tie the game with less than 14 minutes remaining.

The first half we gave them way too many open shots, and they made them, McKeown said. They’re good shooters, so when you give them good looks, they’re gonna make them; they make you pay. In the second half, I thought we contested just about every shot they took. They really had to work to score against us.

After Xavier scored the next five points on free throws to take a 52-47 lead, Alexander used her quickness to penetrate the Xavier defense, creating havoc in the paint for the Musketeers. Alexander’s third layup in a two-minute span gave the Colonials a 55-54 lead with 8:30 left.

Xavier scored on eight of its first 12 shots in a first half that saw the Muskateers hold their largest lead, 37-24, with three minutes to play. Xavier’s Jennifer Phillips shot a perfect 4-for-4 from the field in the half for nine points. Waugh had 10 points and four assists in the opening 20 minutes.

GW shot 11-of-30 in the half (.367), taking quick jump shots that wouldn’t fall. Not even rebound layup attempts would go down for GW.

The Colonials were able to score six of the final eight points of the half, including the Alexander buzzer-beater to begin the comeback.

It was a great game, except for the first half, McKeown said.

UMass 67, GW 54
Thursday, Feb. 17

UMass upset visiting GW 67-54 Thursday at the Mullins Center, ending the Colonials’ six-game winning streak.

GW shot a dismal 16-of-56 (.286) for the game and only made eight field goals each half. Only Aguilar reached double-digits in scoring (13 points, 4-of-12) and Dubovcova was held scoreless in 23 minutes of action.

We could not make a shot, McKeown said Sunday. We had great shooters that just couldn’t make a shot. And they made everything. The shot clock was going off, and they’d bank in a three-pointer.

Alison Macfarland scored a game-high 14 points for UMass, including her 1,000th career point in the early part of the Minutewomen’s dominating second half. GW was out-scored 42-26 after leading the game 28-25 at halftime.

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