The Colonial women clinched the Atlantic 10 West this weekend with a win over Dayton Friday and extended their winning streak to 14 games with a win over Xavier Sunday. Duquesne (13-12, 8-6 A-10) remains in a distant second place in the West, while St. Joseph’s (19-6, 10-4 A-10) and Temple (15-10, 10-4 A-10) share the lead in the East.
While the news may not seem surprising since the Colonials were picked by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association to win the West, much has changed in the Colonials lineup since the beginning of the season. Starting forward Elena Vishniakova, who scored 24 points in the Jan. 13 Xavier blowout, is out for the season. Erica Lawrence is “playing on one leg,” as head coach Joe McKeown put it, and freshman forward Anna Montanana has been sidelined for four games while she nurses tendinitis in her knee.
McKeown said the injuries provide opportunities for other players to step up.
“You’re never going to replace (Vishniakova), but it creates opportunities for others to step up and make up for her absence,” he said.
And step up they did. Ugo Oha netted a career-high 25 points against Xavier Sunday, while freshmen Liz Dancause and Greeba Outen Barlow are “doing the little things,” McKeown said.
The biggest problem resulting from the injuries is a lack of stability in the lineup, causing McKeown’s team to play uptight.
“You play and practice a certain way, then when you have to change it around its hard because that’s how great teams build momentum,” McKeown said. “But people are stepping up and finding ways to win, which says a lot for these kids and their heart.”
The Colonials (19-6, 14-0 A-10) have proven that while they are not the same team they were earlier this season, they can still find a way to win. Neither games this weekend were the blowouts that were expected. GW defeated Dayton 81-59 and Xavier 61-58 at home this weekend, extending the conference’s longest winning streak.
GW 61, Xavier 58
Ugo Oha’s career-high 24 points led the Colonials to a 61-58 victory over visiting Xavier Sunday in a surprisingly close home game, the last of the Colonials season.
Xavier and GW have always had a fierce conference rivalry. They finished last season one and two in the A-10 respectively. Xavier beat GW in the finals of the A-10 Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight. Even though the Colonials beat the Musketeers by 22 in their last meeting, the Colonials knew that Xavier could still compete.
“Xavier and GW is always a big rivalry, no matter the records it’s always going to be a war,” Oha said. “They came out on fire, but we kept our poise and played GW basketball.”
The Colonials spent the first 15 minutes of the second-half trying to play catch-up and finally succeeded with five minutes left. They went on a 6-2 run capped by a Joens jumper for the 52-51 lead that the Colonials would never relinquish. Joens finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds. The Colonials held the Musketeers to just 19 points in the second half.
Oha and Cathy Joens each scored four in the next two-and-a-half minutes to stretch the lead to six. The Musketeers pulled within two after two three-pointers by Amy Waugh, but the Colonials held on for the win.
Waugh led the Musketeers with 25 points, shooting 8-of-17 and banking five three-pointers, three more than the Colonials as a whole netted. McKeown said that while his team made a few mistakes in leaving her wide open, they did succeed in shutting down Reetta Piipari, who has been lethal to GW in the past.
GW 63, Dayton 56
GW had trouble with the outside shot all night, but it was Cathy Joens’s three-pointer that sealed the 63-56 win over Dayton at the Smith Center Friday.
With the game tied at 49 and 2:17 remaining, Joens spotted up from the right side and connected, giving GW a 3-point lead it would never relinquish. Before that shot, the women were 0-for-12 from behind the arc, with Joens missing her last four attempts. She finished with 13 points.
“The shots are going to fall eventually,” Joens said. “I’m a 3-point shooter so if they’re not falling in the beginning, I have to just keep shooting until they do.”
Then a Lindsey Davidson steal from an inbound pass, which she turned into a three-point play with a lay-up that gave GW an 8-point lead Dayton could never overcome.
Davidson had the best line of the night, with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals, sparking a defense that forced 24 Dayton turnovers.
“This week in practice we concentrated on defense,” Davidson said. “We worked on getting into passing lanes and fighting over screens, more so than we have done earlier in the conference.”
The game was close from start to finish. Dayton built a 24-16 lead in the first half, but GW answered with a 15-0 run. Freshman Liz Dancause had 5 of those points, including a lay-up and foul in transition. She finished the game with 7 points.
The last contest between these two teams was not nearly as competitive. GW blew out Dayton on the Flyers own home floor in January 80-57. Even so, GW Coach Joe McKeown was not surprised with the way Friday’s game unfolded.
“It’s a tough game,” he said. “Dayton’s in second place, they just beat Temple the other day. They’re a hard-nosed team and well-coached. If they can sniff that they can play with you, they’re going to hang in there.”