Two teams enter Friday’s game with identical records, histories and expectations. Both GW and Temple, (9-6, 4-0 A-10) have been crushed by top-five teams, including Temple’s loss to No. 3 Vanderbilt University last week and GW’s loss to No. 2 Tennessee early in the season.
Both teams have had success against lesser, mediocre conference teams. Duquesne, St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island and Massachusetts provided an easy path for Temple en route to its first big test, GW.
Only one team will leave the Smith Center Friday night with a blemish on its A-10 record, likely making for another memorable game.
The two already have a competitive history. A February loss to Temple last year stripped the Colonials of their first-place standing and ruined their chances of cracking the top 25 in the polls. But the Colonials found some redemption a month later by ending the Owls championship hopes, a crushing 74-59 win in the semifinal of the A-10. Temple ended the season with an invite to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, subsequently losing in the first round to the Evansville Purple Aces. GW, meanwhile, moved on to the NCAA Tournament after receiving an at-large bid.
But history will not decide this match-up. The Owls roll into town with a win streak dating back to Dec. 30. They have been picked by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association to win the Atlantic 10 East Division and return four starters, including last season’s A-10 Most Improved Player Stacey Smalls. The 5-foot-5 point guard was named to the second team all-conference last season and averages 10 points a game this season.
Smalls is not working alone. Senior forward 6-foot-1 Athena Christoforakis averages 11 points a game while Regan Apo, ranked 6th in the conference in three-point shooting percent at 39 percent, averages 12 points a game including the 14 she scored Sunday to lead the Owls over Duquesne.