Colonials’ run ends in NCAA second round

ElisaThe GW women’s basketball team saw its surprising season end March 19 in South Bend, Ind., when the Fighting Irish of the University of Notre Dame annihilated GW in the NCAA second round, handing the Colonials their worst loss in five years. Still, GW improved to 8-0 all-time in the first round (all under Coach Joe McKeown) with a victory over the University of California at Los Angeles March 17.

GW finished the year 26-6. After the loss to the Irish two days after St. Patrick’s Day, senior guard Marlo Egleston was emotional, but positive about the year.

We surprised a lot of people this year, Egleston said. It hurts a lot now, but down the road, we’ll have good memories.

Notre Dame 95, GW 60
Sunday, March 19

SOUTH BEND, IND. – Moments before the NCAA second-round game at the Joyce Center on the campus of Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish got in a circle and celebrated St. Patrick’s Day weekend by dancing an Irish jig.

They then proceeded to dance a jig all over the Colonials’ overachieving season.

The Colonials ran into a buzzsaw March 19 in front of 5,521 fiercely loyal Notre Dame supporters and saw their year end in a blizzard of missed shots and opportunities as the second-seeded and host Irish blew out the seventh-seeded Colonials 95-60.

The No. 5 Irish (27-4) made it all too clear why they were on a school-record 23-game home winning streak. The Colonials could do little all night to stop the Irish, who were protecting their highest seed and ranking in school history.

As a result, the Irish hardly needed their Associated Press First-Team All-American, 6-5 junior center Ruth Riley, who played only six minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. When she returned in the second, she dominated – but by that time, the Colonials were all but done for the night.

In the opening minutes, the Colonials did a good defensive job on Riley and appeared competitive, taking an 8-5 lead four minutes in after a three by senior guard Elisa Aguilar. From that point on, GW’s offense completely disappeared, and Notre Dame made the run that secured the Irish another Sweet 16 appearance.

Over the next nine minutes, and with the crowd roaring its approval, Notre Dame went on a 19-2 run, while the Colonials missed 16 straight shots.

You know what it’s like when the ball doesn’t go in, Coach Joe McKeown said. You start pressing, and things just snowball from there. And that’s what happened.

As the deficit grew, GW’s chances of an upset swiftly diminished, but senior guard Marlo Egleston, who would eventually foul out of her final college game, lifted GW to one final run before the half.

Egleston made a steal and layup to end GW’s cold streak and cut the lead to 24-12 with six-and-a-half minutes left. She then buried a three to pull GW within 26-15. Freshman forward Cathy Joens made a layup that pulled GW within nine with three-and-a-half minutes left.

Then, in one sequence, Egleston nailed a three – and Notre Dame senior guard Niele Ivey hit a three to answer. Egleston hit a three again, and Ivey answered yet again, staring Egleston down.

After that bit of excitement, the Irish finished the half on a 7-2 run, including four points in the last seven seconds. At the half, the demoralized Colonials went to the locker room facing an18-point, 43-25 deficit.

Notre Dame senior guard Danielle Green killed the Colonials in the first, hitting 4-for-6 and 8-of-9 at the line for 16 points.

In the second, the punchless Colonials never got closer than 15 and trailed by as many as 37. Only a deliberately slow pace in the final minutes kept Notre Dame from hitting the century mark, much to the chagrin of the audience.

(Notre Dame) played extremely well and just took it to us, McKeown said. There’s not much you can sit up here and say, `x’ and `o’-wise, `cause they just took it to us.

Although Aguilar (15 points) and Egleston (13) shot 10-for-19 (6-for-10 from three-point range), the rest of the Colonials shot 7-for-41, led by junior forward Petra Dubovcova’s ugly 0-for-9 performance.

Everybody has bad days, and mine was scheduled on March 19, said Dubovcova, who did have eight rebounds.

Notre Dame dominated GW in almost everyone statistical category. They outshot the Colonials 51.9 to 28.3 percent, outrebounded them 54-28, and shot 33-of-45 on free throws – while GW only made 19-of-29. Notre Dame also hit 6-of-12 on three-pointers while GW shot 7-for-22. GW had 17 steals, but committed 19 turnovers.

Fouls were also a factor, as GW was called for 30, and the Irish were called for 23. At the end, there were seven players with at least four fouls, three of them on GW.

The Colonials are now 2-5 all-time in the second round of the NCAAs.

The Irish, who wore their new green uniforms for the second straight game, have now won both contests between these two schools. The other came in 1997, when Notre Dame advanced to the Final Four by virtue of a 62-52 win over the Colonials.

GW had a fair-sized fan contingent, made up mostly of family members. The GW pep band, cheerleaders and Little George also made the weekend trip. A reception for GW fans was held prior to the game at Notre Dame’s Morris Inn. President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg flew in for the Notre Dame game.

GW 79, UCLA 72
Friday, March 17

SOUTH BEND, IND. – On Saint Patrick’s Day, the GW women’s basketball team returned to NCAA Tournament play and earned a second-round matchup with the Fighting Irish after a tough 79-72 win over the UCLA March 17.

The Colonials, seeded seventh in the Mideast Region, built as much as a 19-point lead in the second half, but saw the 10th-seeded Bruins play with more poise over much of the second half to slowly chip away and pull within two points with four and a half minutes left. But in the end, it was senior guard Elisa Aguilar’s hot three-point shooting that sent the Bruins home and the Colonials back to the hotel to celebrate yet another successful NCAA first round.

I was a little disappointed (Aguilar) didn’t make a lot of the All-American teams out there, said McKeown, who won his 250th game as the Colonials’ coach. I think she showed the kind of player she is tonight.

In front of a small crowd in the cozy Joyce Center, GW roared out of the gate and dominated in surprising fashion. UCLA (18-11) was a team that was ranked high in the preseason, but suffered from injuries all year. With its lineup now complete and packed with impact seniors, the Colonials expected to have their hands full. But GW went up 4-0 and would, in fact, never trail the entire night. Aguilar hit two of her first three three-point attempts to set the tone as GW swiftly pulled away from the cold-shooting Bruins.

UCLA, which advanced to the Elite Eight last season, saw its deficit swell as GW led 26-8 and then 35-16 with just more than four minutes left in the first half. UCLA managed to find some offense before the half and trailed by only 13, 39-26, at the break. GW took full advantage of 17 UCLA turnovers in the first half and allowed the Bruins’ leading scorer, senior forward Maylana Martin, only four points. She would finish with only eight.

The Colonials opened the second with more domination and led 52-33 with 15 minutes left in the game. Then the Colonials went cold from the field.

The Bruins dropped a 10-0 run on GW over the next three minutes to make a laugher suddenly tense. Then Aguilar buried a three for the 55-43 lead, giving GW a little room to breathe. From there, the Bruins slowly kept picking at GW, as the Colonials could not shake the Californians.

With GW up nine, 62-53, UCLA went on a 7-0 run to pull within 62-60. With six minutes left senior guard Marlo Egleston, who had a sizable cheering section from her native Elkand, Pa., then hit two free throws to keep the Bruins from thinking of an imminent tie. UCLA again got within
two, and GW again answered, this time with a baseline jumper from freshman forward Erica Lawrence (10 points).

UCLA put back a miss to get within 66-64 with four minutes left when senior forward Starr Jefferson scored her only points of the night on two free throws. The first bounced high in the air before dropping to give GW some room.

With UCLA still appearing to have the Colonials on the ropes, GW finally put together a string of plays that sealed the victory. With three minutes left, UCLA went on a fast break and looked ready to pull within two, but the Bruins’ LaCresha Flannigan blew the layup. Seconds later, Aguilar twisted the dagger when she buried her fifth three of the night. GW led 71-64 and never saw its lead dip below five the rest of the night as 7-of-8 made free throws by GW down the stretch ended any potential drama.

Aguilar finished with 23 points and 5-of-9 shooting from long range. The Colonials as a whole shot at a 46.6 percent clip and 40.9 percent on threes.

Junior forward Petra Dubovcova had 18 points, while junior guard Kristeena Alexander added 13 on 4-for-6 shooting. She talked about the Colonials’ undefeated streak in the NCAA first round.

I won’t lie, I knew about that, she said. I’m excited that we won, but this isn’t enough.

GW has now beaten UCLA three times in three meetings, all in the last four seasons.

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