SOUTH KINGSTON-GW head coach Joe McKeown wasn’t too worried when his team let its nine-point lead over Duquesne drop to one point in Friday’s second-round game of the Atlantic 10 tournament. He didn’t even take off his jacket. He knew his team remembered all too well what an early exit from the conference tournament would get them, and that they did not want a repeat.
“We’re trying to put aside last year, it’s been a burning issue with our team and they weren’t going to let (an upset) happen,” he said. “So I wasn’t too concerned about (losing) because I think our players still have a bitter taste from (last year’s second-round loss).”
McKeown was concerned about his team’s overall situation however. His women, who hadn’t played a game in six days, were playing a 14-game winner, fresh off a first round win over Fordham yesterday.
“I was concerned on the opening tip because you’re playing a team you already beat twice this year, so I felt like Duquesne came in with a lot of incentives and they were pretty loose,” he said. “They’re the kind of team that can get hot and string together some threes, and you end up with a ball game.”
Duquesne (15-14, 7-10 A-10) did just that, keeping themselves in the game with 50 percent shooting from behind the three-point line in the first half. While GW’s leading scorer Cathy Joens attempted only one field goal in the first twenty minutes, Duquesne’s Candace Futrell sank four of her six attempts from behind the arc, heading to the locker room with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting.
Erin Wehrle’s two three pointers led the Dukes on a 9-2 run to start the second half, coming within one point of the regular season conference champions, but junior Ugo Oha (16 points, six blocks) said it was her team’s ability to maintain their poise that kept them ahead.
“Throughout the season we had our backs against the wall a couple of times, but the key component is that we remained poised, and that helps us a lot,” she said. “We don’t let our offense dictate our defense, and getting a couple of stops helped to get the momentum back. That was the key.”
The Colonials (22-6, 16-1 A-10), then launched a long-range attack of their own in the second half, as Joens hit the first and last of four GW three pointers in under three and a half minutes. Lindsey Davidson (eight points, eight assists) and Anna Monatanana (12 points, nine rebounds) also hit threes in a 14-3 GW run that put them up 13 with seven minutes remaining in the game.
It was all over from there, as a 9-2 gave GW its largest advantage, a 20-point margin with a minute thirty remaining. Joens said the three’s gave her team the lift they needed. Duquesne head coach Dan Durkin agreed.
“We got ourselves knocked out when they got those couple three’s to make it 60-47, and that hurt us,” he said. “It was hard to get them fired back up for those last six minutes. Everything has to be going your way at the time, and it didn’t go our way.”
While the Colonials fired away, Futrell was held to one basket in the second half, ending they day with 21 points. The Dukes shooting percentage dropped to 34 and they old made three-of-14 attempts from behind the arc.
“I think they spread out the zone and we didn’t take advantage of the areas we wanted to that could get (Futrell) open and to get her some more clean looks,” Durkin said of GW’s ability to shut down his guard. “I think that was a good adjustment on their part, and we made an adjustment, but we didn’t execute.”
Overall the Colonials lived up to their status as the eighth-best shooters in the country, going over 50 percent from the field and the three-point line for the game. When Joens, the A-10 Player of the Year, was held to two first-half points (both from the foul line) and Oha was held to four, junior Marsheik Witherspoon stepped up, tying a career high 10 points in the first half. The point guard, who would break her record with two foul shots in the second half to end the day with 12 points and three steals, said her performance was evidence of her growing confidence.
“I think my team improved and coach has been giving us so much positive talk recently, and that’s really helped us to play well,” she said. “So when they’re doubling the two best players on the team, somebody has to step up, and that just happened to be me.”
She wasn’t the only one, as five Colonials scored in double figures, including sophomore Greeba Outen Barlow who scored 12 points in only 17 minutes.
Futrell and Wehrle were the only double figure scorers for the Dukes as their second-leading scorer and leading rebounded, senior Beth Friday, went down with an ankle injury on the first play of the game. But Even without Friday, the Dukes out rebounded -the Colonials 34-29 and had a significant edge in second-chance points and points in the paint, an aspect of his team’s game that McKeown referred to as an “Achilles heel.”
“I’m not happy with that. We didn’t do a very good job of blocking out today.” We want to get out of the blocks and run, but sometimes we forget the ball, and forget to go after it,” he said.
GW will need to improve on its inside game when they face a physical Temple team, which beat Richmond to advance in other second round action yesterday. The Owls, the defending A-10 Tournament Champions, came back from a five point deficit to tie the game and won it on a steal and lay up as time ran out. Temple (14-14, 10-7 A-10),which averages 33 rebounds and 61 points a game, will face GW Saturday in a 4 p.m. match up at the Ryan Center.