The La Salle Explorers could not find their way around GW’s freshman center, Ugo Oha in the Colonials 70-55 victory Tuesday night at the Smith Center. The 6-4 Oha was more than just a presence, as Coach Joe McKeown described her after the game. She was a giant oak tree the Explorers couldn’t shoot over. Oha refused La Salle’s forwards any space under the glass. She forced them to take outside shots, which, in this case, were not falling. La Salle shot only 39 percent from the field.
On offense, Colonial guards Lindsey Davidson and Kristeena Alexander fed Oha the ball inside the paint. She scored a career-high 20 points including 16 in the first half, matching her previous career high.
Routinely Oha drew double and triple coverage when she was within 10 feet of the basket. La Salle, which was undersized against GW, sent their tallest forward, 6-2 Beth Hudak, to guard Oha.
La Salle head coach John Miller said this was his strategy. “We needed to force them to score from the outside, rather than the inside.”
Which the Colonials did. Oha led four GW shooters in double figures in an evenly spread scoring night: Erica Lawrence (17 points), Alexander (11 points) and Davidson (11 points). Davidson shot 3-of-5 from 3-point range.
“If they (Explorer defenders) came and double teamed me, I hit my other teammates who were open,” Oha said. “And I think that was the difference in the game.”
McKeown said that Oha is patient when she gets the ball. Many other players would not have the mind-set to relax and allow the defense to collapse on her, freeing her teammates.
“I think one thing that Ugo does better than any other freshman that we’ve ever had is when she gets the ball, she just keeps her poise,” McKeown said. “She never really rushes. That’s a special talent.”
Unlike the previous two games against Temple and Duquesne, the Colonials (15-6, 9-0) rolled past La Salle (10-9, 4-4) and never trailed after the first minute of play.
In the first half, GW gave up a quick lay-up to La Salle’s Beth Hudak. But from there, the Colonials dominated on both ends. After Oha blocked Shannon McDade’s shot, the Colonials surged to a 9-2 run, with Oha scoring six of those points on lay-ups and short shots and Davidson hitting a 3-pointer. The Colonials took a 40-27 halftime lead.
Oha said that when one player gets hot, the entire team feeds off that. “It gets us really pumped and it gets the game flowing. It helps the defense. It just helps in all areas of the game,” she said.
In the second half, the Colonials slowed slightly on offense. Part of that reason is McKeown inserted more of his bench players. The Colonials scored 30 points in the second half, ten less than their first half total.
It was impressive to watch Alexander and Davidson shut down La Salle’s top two guards, Jen Zenszer and Suzanne Keilty. Both were held scoreless in the first half. Zenszer, who had been averaging 13 points per game, was held to six points in the second half.
La Salle’s Beth Hudak collected a career-high 15 rebounds; fourteen of which were on the defensive end. McDade led La Salle with 14 points and was the team’s only real threat with Keilty and Zenszer shooting cold.
The Colonials will face Dayton and Xavier this weekend in a two-game road trip. While McKeown said his team would not overlook Dayton, who is currently tied for 5th in Atlantic-10 with St. Joseph’s, Xavier is the Colonials’ biggest threat for first place.
The Colonials will play at Dayton on Friday evening and Xavier at 12 p.m. on Sunday. That game will be televised on Newschannel 8.
NOTES: With about seven minutes remaining in the second half, Petra Dubovcova, who was at the top of the perimeter and away from the ball, fell down after a La Salle player knocked into her. McKeown said it looks like a sprained right ankle.