McKeown, Colonials eye the Cardinal

The two programs have met only once. In November of 1991 Stanford University defeated the GW women’s basketball team 74-71 in the final of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Desert Classic. Stanford finished that season 30-3 and went on to win the NCAA Championship. That is the history between the teams, thus far.

Saturday night, the No. 7-seed Colonial women (22-9) will battle coach Tara VanDerveer’s No. 10-seed Cardinal in a West Region first-round NCAA Tournament game at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla. The 10 p.m. game will be televised on espn2.

GW coach Joe McKeown has never lost in an NCAA first-round game (8-0). The winner will most likely play No. 2-seed University of Oklahoma in Monday’s second round. The Sooners and their first-team All American, Stacey Dales, take on No. 15-seed Oral Roberts.

GW’s first-round match-up will have its share of intrigue. It was GW guard Lindsey Davidson’s childhood dream to play guard for Stanford. It was Stanford who sent letters and convinced Davidson she was a top choice back in high school. And all was going well until midway through Davidson’s senior year at Brea-Olinda High School in Brea, Calif.

That was when another guard, Jamie Carey, who would later win Pacific 10 Conference Freshman of the Year, verbally committed to Stanford. The Cardinal dropped Davidson from contention, and she committed to GW.

Saturday night, Davidson wants to prove the Cardinal made a big mistake.

“For me, I want to prove why I went to GW,” Davidson said Tuesday. “It’s not gonna be hard to get psyched up.”

The twist in the Davidson story is that Carey was forced to retire as a sophomore earlier this season because of recurrent concussions. Carey was for Stanford what Cathy Joens is for GW – a deadly, but sidelined outside threat. Joens is out with a knee injury.

This year, Stanford has another Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, 6-2 guard Nicole Powell. Powell leads the Pac-10 in rebounding, grabbing nine rebounds a game, and scores 14 points a game. Earlier this season, Powell recorded a triple-double against Washington State University with 10 points, rebounds and assists.

Stanford’s Lindsey Yamasaki averages 13 points a game at forward. Bethany Donaphin and Lauren St. Clair, both forwards, average about eight points per game.

Freshman Susan King posted 11 points a game earlier in the season before she went out with an injury.

Stanford is a big team. McKeown compares the Cardinal to Xavier in size, but not in strength – Stanford is a weaker inside team, he said. Davidson said the Colonials will play Stanford as they have played all other teams this season – with their own brand of size and strength.

While most teams are either big or fast, the Colonials are both.

“We’re a very balanced team,” Davidson said. “We have a really fast guard and post.”

Elena Vishniakova and Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year Ugo Oha are powerful forces under the rim. Oha forces teams to shoot from the perimeter.

GW also has two quick guards in Davidson and senior Kristeena Alexander.

Davidson said GW has to win the transition game in order to beat Stanford.

“We have to take advantage of our speed,” Davidson said. “We can run at them, or we can stop and pull up.”

She added one of the keys for the Colonials will be sifting through and finding a hot player.

Stanford (18-10) won a share of the Pac-10 Championship and finished the season in a three-way tie with the University of Washington and Arizona State University for the conference title. They were ranked at No. 14 this season, but it’s been eight weeks since they fell out of the rankings.

The Colonials, who missed the top-25 for the first time since 1990, lost to Xavier in the A-10 Championship.

The Cardinal have played and beaten a ranked team, No. 25 Arizona State, twice. They have lost all other games to ranked teams, including a 63-58 loss to the Mideast’s No. 1-seed University of Tennessee.

The Colonials have beaten one ranked team this season. Back in January, Davidson made a little personal history when she scored 26 points to lead GW over then No. 22 Xavier at the Smith Center. The Colonials dropped games to six ranked teams including Xavier, the University of Connecticut and Rutgers University.

But that was then, and now, Davidson and the Colonials say they are exactly where they want to be. It was always Davidson’s dream to play with Stanford in the NCAAs. It will happen Saturday in Oklahoma, but on different terms.

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