Stanford downs GW in NCAA first-round game

NORMAN, OKLA. – The GW women’s basketball team made its earliest exit from the NCAA Tournament under coach Joe McKeown with a first-round loss to Stanford University at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., March 17. Stanford defeated the Colonials 76-51 with an offensive assault that GW could neither answer nor contain.

Stanford’s Pacific 10 Conference Freshman of the Year Nicole Powell scored 16 of her game-high 19 points in the first half and grabbed seven rebounds. Powell maneuvered around GW defenders all night, freeing herself off picks to nail three of four three-point attempts. Powell confused the Colonials by playing both the guard and forward positions. Either way, the Colonials could not keep pace.

“(The) best combination would be for me to guard Nicole Powell,” McKeown said after the game. “Because nobody else really did.”

Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer joked about Powell, who scored two points below her season average.

“Well she didn’t get a double-double like she usually does,” she said. “But I’ll take it. She did really well. She’s a big-time player.”

The No. 7 seed Colonials received an at-large bid to the tournament while No. 10 seed Stanford (19-10) received an automatic bid after winning a share of the Pac-10 title. With its win against the Colonials (22-10), Stanford advanced to the tournament’s second round, losing 67-50 to host and No. 2 seed University of Oklahoma. The Sooners lost in the Sweet Sixteen to the University of Washington.

GW’s loss ended McKeown’s perfect first-round winning record at 8-0. The loss ended a dominant Colonial season. The team managed to win 22 games including a 14-point victory over Elite Eight-bound Xavier in January despite a host of injuries to senior Petra Dubovcova, a nagging knee injury to Kristeena Alexander and an early season-ending knee injury to sophomore Cathy Joens.

Corrin Reid led GW off the bench with a team-high 11 points while Erica Lawrence and Alexander each scored 10 points for GW.

This first-round game slipped away from the Colonials midway through the first half. It did not take long to begin to feel like a repeat of the team’s 81-56 loss to Xavier in the Atlantic 10 title game in Philadelphia – a game in which Xavier had an answer for everything GW offered.

Powell put Stanford ahead with nine points in the game’s opening five minutes to give Stanford a 13-8 lead early on.

After a TV timeout with 7:22 remaining in the first half and Stanford leading 21-19, the Cardinal went on what seemed like a game-long run. Powell started a 13-2 run in the half’s final four minutes with a three-pointer and Lindsey Yamasaki ended it with another trey. Stanford led 38-27 at halftime and ended the half shooting 61 percent from the floor and 80 percent from beyond the arc. The Colonials shot 37 percent from the floor and 14.3 percent from
behind the arc.

Stanford’s coach said she was happy with the team’s hot hand, something the Colonials lacked.

“Once we got into a groove of executing offensively, we got very high percentage shots and knocked them down,” VanDerveer said.

“In the NCAA’s you gotta make shots and they were making shots,” McKeown said. “In the first half we had a lot of opportunities in transition. Two on one, we’d miss a layup. We had some turnovers. We had to work for every shot. We just couldn’t strip them in the backcourt and get a breakaway layup. Things like that I thought we might able to do once in a while on Powell.”

The Colonials shot 18 percent from the floor in the second half, making a comeback nearly impossible. Perhaps with this in mind, junior-transfer Elena Vishniakova broke down in tears during the half and had to be consoled away from the team bench.

With about 12 minutes remaining in the game, GW trailed 50-33. The Colonials began to rush passes and take erratic shots, which lowered their shooting percentage.

“I thought at halftime we could pressure them a little bit. Maybe trap them at half-court,” McKeown said. “But they reversed the ball. Got open three’s. They’re talented enough to go inside and outside. They were really balanced tonight. Without overanalyzing it, it just got a away from us in the second half.”

Alexander, who was running the floor for GW, said she believed the Colonials were never too far from mounting a comeback.

“In the first half I knew we could
still come back and there was still time on the clock and we were still playing hard,” Alexander said.

Alexander said she realized it was over with about five minutes remaining when GW trailed by as many as 27 points.

After another Yamasaki three-pointer, Stanford pulled ahead 66-39 with seven-and-a-half minutes remaining. Adding insult, Yamasaki followed with a block on Alexander that sent the ball flying beyond the court as it rolled to a stop just under the first-row seats.

“Just very disappointed,” McKeown said. “Very disappointed in the way we played. I thought this was a great match-up coming in. I never expected the game to get away from us like it did.”

By the second half, the arena began to empty. The game started with about 10,000 fans and shrunk to about 1,000 by the end.

GW entered the tourney with a lower seed than the Cardinal, but both teams agreed this was not an upset.

GW matched up on national television with a team built like itself – with inside strength and size. Stanford has only two players shorter than 6-0, while Carolyn Moos, Stanford’s starting center, is an imposing 6-7.

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