A serious injury to GW forward Elena Vishniakova overshadowed a strong performance by the women’s team this weekend that leaves GW as the only remaining undefeated Atlantic-10 team.
Vishniakova, the A-10 Player of the Week, sustained what looks to be a tear to her right her Anterior Cruciate Ligament against St. Joseph’s.
The Colonial women passed their first true Atlantic 10 test over the weekend with wins over two previously undefeated teams, the Temple Owls and the St. Joseph’s Hawks.
The wins serve as proof that Joe McKeown’s team has turned a corner after a shaky non-conference schedule. GW coasted by its first four A-10 opponents, but Temple (9-6, 4-1 A-10) and St. Joe’s (14-3, 5-1 A-10) offered fierce competition.
On Thursday, the Colonials take their act on the road for their first game with Duquense in Pittsburgh.
With the weekend’s victories, the Colonials can now take a breath and work on tuning fundamentals for post-season play.
“With the two behind us we can focus on not just winning, but playing well,” Cathy Joens said.
GW 68, St. Joseph’s 62
Elena Vishniakova came down hard after a rebound seven minutes into the second half of the Colonials win over the Hawks. The Smith Center fell silent as Vishniakova screamed in pain and grabbed her right leg. She was carried off the court and did not return.
Head coach Joe McKeown said the injury was “pretty serious” and that the preliminary diagnosis pointed toward an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury. More information will available by Wednesday, McKeown said.
The injury comes at a disappointing time for Vishniakova and the Colonials. Finally healthy after constant foot problems last season, Vishniakova has been a rock for the Colonials this season, averaging 20 points over her last four games. She was already in double figures with 10 points before she went down.
“She’s playing her best basketball of the year and she’s a phenomenal lady. This really hurts us,” McKeown said. “I feel like somebody just stuck a dagger in me and her.”
Vishniakova’s absence leaves a hole in the Colonials starting five. Freshman Anna Montanana will most likely see her minutes drastically increase. The forward has done well recently, earning two A-10 Rookie of the Week honors, but was scoreless in her 17 minutes off the bench against the Hawks.
Before Sunday, the St. Joseph’s Hawks were 14-0 in games that they held a halftime lead, a dismal statistic for the Colonial women who were down 29-30 at the half. But GW stormed out of the locker room with an 8-0 run, held the Hawks scoreless for the first seven minutes of the half and never trailed again.
Down nine points with just under six minutes remaining in the first half, GW went on a 10-2 run to climb back within reach. The final play, an inside basket from Vishniakova from Lindsey Davidson, provided momentum for the Colonials second half run, Ugo Oha said.
“Coming out (for the second half) we were ready for the kill,” she said.
Oha and Cathy Joens, both somewhat dormant in the first half, exploded in the second half. Joens, who was scoreless against Temple, scored 18 of her 24 points in the second half, including three baskets from behind the arc.
Oha was the Colonials second-leading scorer with 14 points, but more importantly she drew St. Joe’s Stephanie Graff into foul trouble, allowing the Colonials an easier time inside.
GW 54, Temple 53
The lead changed 15 times between GW and the Temple Lady Owls in Friday’s home game, but only one mattered: Anna Montanana’s buzzer-beating put-back off Ugo Oha’s missed three that gave the Colonials a 54-53 win.
GW (10-6, 5-0 Atlantic 10) took the lead after Marsheik Witherspoon’s lay-up tied the game and Elena Vishniakova’s basket made it 50-48 with just over two minutes remaining.
Temple’s Lisa Jackubowicz sank two free throws and chipped in a rebound to put Temple (9-7, 4-1 A-10) up 53-52. As GW inbounded the ball with nine seconds left, Oha recovered a near steal by Temple and put up a three pointer with four seconds left. When Oha’s shot bounced off the rim, it looked like the game would end with GW one point down. But Montanana was in perfect position for the rebound and the put back.
“Temple brings out a lot of emotion, but you have to be able to keep your poise,” head coach Joe McKeown said of the Colonials dropping their late-game lead.
The excitement of the game’s final minutes contrasted the game’s slow start. Down 5-0 after the first two minutes, the Colonials recovered and began a 13-0 run to take their biggest lead of the game at 19-14.
It was a defensive battle, with the Colonials taking a 19-16 lead into the locker room.
The low score was a tribute to Colonials defense, which held the Owls to 19-percent shooting, well off the team’s season average of more than 30 percent. They held leading scorers Stacey Smalls, Athena Christoforakis and Natalia Issac to a combined 12 points in the first half.
Vishniakova exploded in the second half, scoring 16 of her 21 points to keep the Colonials in the game. Witherspoon was the only other Colonial in double digits with 10. Temple succeeded in shutting down Cathy Joens – she did not score.