One would think GW women’s basketball head coach Joe McKeown would get all the attention on a night when he became the winningest women’s coach in Atlantic 10 history. But not on a night when his star player set career highs in rebounds and points and his team recorded its largest margin of victory since 1993.
Ugo Oha scored 25 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as the No. 21 Colonials (11-0) beat up on the Howard Bison 96-45 in their season opener at the Smith Center Friday night. The 51-point margin was the largest since the Colonials beat Coppin State by a 65-point margin on Nov. 27, 1993.
A humble McKeown said it is performances like Oha’s that enable him to add to his win total.
“It’s a question of how long you’ve been here,” he said, pointing to his gray hair. “And it’s the Ugo’s the (Jennifer) Shasky’s, the (Tajama) Abraham’s. That’s how you set records – when you have great players.”
In addition to his players, McKeown credited former Rutgers coach Theresa Grentz, the coach he passed in the standings, for his success.
“Just to be in the same league with (Grentz) is an honor,” he said of his friend, who was instrumental in convincing him to make the cross-country trip from New Mexico State to GW in 1989.
The Colonials game flowed around Oha, who set career highs in points and rebounds Friday. She scored the Colonials’ first basket, sparking an 11-0 run over the first five minutes of the game, a lead the Colonials never relinquished.
“This summer, I realized I’d have to become more vocal, and I think my teammates have responded,” Oha said. “I want to be in that position to have the team on my back.”
The junior was expectedly strong on defense, stifling any semblance of the Howard’s inside game. But the real stinger was her effectiveness on offense, especially with her newfound ability to hit the mid-range jumper, in addition to the ease with which her teammates fed her the ball in the paint.
“She’s a phenomenon,” Howard head coach Cathy Parson said, praising the 6-foot-4 center’s maturity. “The superior post player had her way tonight. She is the nucleus that will keep this team together.”
The Bison are still struggling from the loss of Andrea Gardner, their 6-foot-3 leading scorer, who now plays on the Utah Starzz with former Colonial Elise Aguilar.
“But even Gardner would have had problems with (Oha) tonight,” Parson said. “She’s as good as advertised.”
Oha alone had more than half of the Bison’s total rebounds, as the Colonials dominated the boards 61-36. Five Colonials had more rebounds than Howard’s starting center, Shauna Ruglass.
As a result, the Bison (0-1) had to force an outside game, but could not hit the shots to make it effective. Howard shot a paltry 21.9 percent from the field, less than half of the Colonials’ 50 percent.
Their two outside threats, senior forward Courtney Kirk and senior guard Asia Petty, were a combined 6-for-32 from the floor and were scoreless in their combined 10 attempts from three point range. GW held the Bison to 15 second-half points.
In contrast, the Colonials shot seven percentage points better than their season average last year. In addition to Oha’s game-high 25 points, senior forward Erica Lawrence tapped in a quick 14 as classmate Cathy Joens, in somewhat of an off night for the premier shooting guard, added 11, including two three pointers.
Even with the 51-point victory, the Colonials showed some sloppiness towards the end of the first half before making a 31-2 run over the last ten minutes of the game.
GW will not have that luxury when they take on the Lady Vols of Tennessee next Tuesday in Knoxville. GW may have more momentum coming in than No. 2 Tennessee (0-1), who just suffered a 76-55 loss to No. 1 Duke Sunday, but will need to play an up tempo and technically sound game to keep up. In the teams’ meeting last November, the Vols dominated the Colonials 88-57 at the Smith Center.
“A team like (Tennessee) can shock you right back into whatever state of mind they put you in,” McKeown said.