Facing Xavier for the first time since the Musketeers knocked them out of the Atlantic 10 tournament last March, the Colonial women were looking for some payback this weekend. They exacted their revenge in the form of a 70-57 win Sunday by using Cathy Joens’ deadly shooting and the old sports clich?, “you can’t stop them, you can only hope to contain them.”
The “them” refers to senior guards Amy Waugh (19 ppg) and Reetta Piipari (14 ppg), two of Xavier’s top scorers.
“We just can’t let those two beat us, because I’ve seen them do it to us before,” GW head coach Joe McKeown told his staff, most likely referring to Waugh’s seven three pointers and 23 points against GW last March.
At halftime Sunday, McKeown thought Waugh and Piipari might hand his team another loss. The duo had 22 of Xavier’s 32 points and the Colonials (10-5, 5-0 A-10) were clinging to a one-point lead. Piipari had sparked a 12-3 Xavier run at the end of the half, and was four for six on three-pointers.
“I don’t care if anyone else scores 20 points,” McKeown said he told his team in the locker room. “Those two aren’t going to beat us.”
And they didn’t. McKeown changed his defense from a match up zone to a triangle and two, in which three players played zone and two players were assigned to shadow Waugh and Piipari. The defense worked; Piipari did not attempt a three-pointer in the second half and Waugh had difficulty finding an open shot. They ended the day combining for only eight field goals and a total of 17 and 16 points, respectively.
Waugh in particular struggled after averaging 28.7 points in her last three games. She shot just three for 11 from the field and one for seven from beyond the arc. The majority of her points came from the free throw line, where she was a perfect 10-of-10.
“We definitely stepped it up on defense,” junior point guard Marsheik Witherspoon said. “We wanted this one so much more because it was Xavier and they upset us last year.”
Joens, the other key to the Colonials’ success Sunday, followed her 35-point break out performance Wednesday against Fordham with a 24-point day against the Musketeers (11-5, 3-2 A-10). She was 10 for 15 from the field, and hit GW’s only two three pointers of the day.
Unlike Xavier’s guards, Joens came out gunning in the second half. After GW went zero-for-eight from beyond the arc in the first half, Joens hit back-to-back three pointers during a 12-4 run to open the second half. With a nine-point lead, GW turned on the cruise control. Xavier was able to claw their way back within five a few times, but GW never let them get closer.
With Joens connecting, Witherspoon said her job became easier.
“I give her the ball and she scores,” Witherspoon said. “It makes it easier to get the ball down low, too, because they won’t double team as much if CJ is hitting her shots.”
Down in the post, junior Ugo Oha started the game slowly, taking eight minutes to hit her first field goal. But she heated up after the first basket and used a few blocks to get her team, and the crowd, pumped up. Oha ended the day with her usual solid line – 17 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.
Even though Witherspoon was looking to distribute the ball first, she said she found herself wide open several times and took what the defense gave her, ending up matching a career high with 10 points on four-for-six shooting.
But it was her defense that drew praise from her coach.
“Pound for pound, she’s the best defensive player in the conference,” he said. “I know I wouldn’t want her guarding me.”
Xavier could muster little to compensate for the struggling Waugh and Piipari. Forward Tara Boothe had 14 points on the day, but the GW bench outscored the Xavier bench 17-2.
Sixteen bench points came from Greeba Outen Barlow and Valerie Williams, who each had eight. McKeown called their contribution a “really a big plus.”
GW was also able to limit turnovers, something the team has struggled with all season, averaging more than 20 turnovers a game. GW had only 11 Sunday, leading to five Xavier points.
“We’ve taken every approach you can think of (to limit turnovers),” McKeown said. “We’ve run for each turnover, had punishment, push ups, sit ups, we’ve threatened to take scholarships away and their first child a couple of years from now … everything we could think of.”
The Colonials will travel to Philadelphia to take on eastern division leader Saint Joseph’s Thursday before returning home to face the University of Florida in non-conference action next Sunday