Norman, Okla. – The GW women’s basketball team’s trip back to the NCAA tournament handed the No. 7 Colonials two early obstacles. They conquered the first task, beating the Mideast Region’s 10th seed University of Oklahoma on the Sooners’ home court.
But the second, beating the team that snapped Connecticut’s record 70-game winning streak, proved too much for the Colonials (25-7), as they were knocked out of the second round of the NCAA tournament with a 70-57 loss to No. 2 Villanova (27-5) Tuesday night.
Despite the second round exit, head coach Joe McKeown said he was happy with his team’s accomplishments this season.
“I’m really proud of my team,” he said. “One thing I told my team after the game is not to forget, ‘you’re champions, you won 25 games this year.’ We’ve had a terrific season. We’re going to walk out of this with our heads high with a lot of pride.”
Though the Colonials held the higher seed in the opening round game, they wore their white jerseys on Oklahoma’s home court. The environment was anything but a home game for the Colonials, though, as nearly the entire crowd of 3,986 was cheering on the local team. Sooner fans went home disappointed, however, as GW came away with a 71-61 victory Sunday night.
GW played close with Villanova, which knocked off No. 15 St. Francis College to reach the second-round game, through the first half and early into the second half before Villanova pulled away on eight three-point field goals down the stretch.
Villanova 70, GW 57
Tuesday, March 26
GW was unable to recover from an onslaught of second half three-pointers by the Wildcats in Tuesday’s loss. Villanova’s first six baskets of the second half were all three-pointers, which gave the Wildcats a 46-35 lead with 11 minutes to go.
Trish Juhline started the three-point parade for the Wildcats three and half minutes into the second half. Her three put Villanova up 30-27 and they never relinquished the lead.
“We were doing what we wanted to do and all of the sudden they just started raining shots from everywhere,” McKeown said. “For a while there, we were going three for two.”
The Colonials could not catch any breaks during the second half. With just over 12 minutes remaining in the game and GW down 41-35, junior center Ugo Oha blocked a Jennifer Hilgenberg shot, but the ball ended up in the hands of Katie Davis who drained a three to put Villanova up 44-35.
Oha, who was in foul trouble early and played only eight minutes in the first half, led GW, pouring in 21 points in 25 minutes on 8-for-13 shooting.
“It really hurt us having to sit Ugo 10 minutes in the first half in foul trouble,” McKeown said.
Sophomore Anna Montanana had 15 points for the Colonials and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. Senior red-shirt Cathy Joens scored 11 for GW.
Katie Davis led all scorers, dropping 24 points while hitting six three-pointers. Juhline scored 16 points. Hilgenberg had a career-high 14 points off the bench for Villanova and Courtney Mix added 11.
“Today (Hilgenberg) gave us the offense we needed to push us over the top,” Villanova head coach Harry Perretta said.
Oha cut the lead to 11, 57-46, with a short jumper in the lane, but again the Wildcats hit a three-pointer. This time it was Juhline who connected with just under six minutes to go in the game.
Villanova scored on 13 of 14 possessions during a stretch of the second half that spanned over 10 minutes. During that stretch, Villanova outscored GW 33-19.
“They really spread the floor on us tonight,” Davidson said. “We really did play in-your-face defense, pressured the ball pretty much the whole game. They’re just a very difficult team to defend against.”
The Colonials lost despite hitting more field goals in the game. GW made 22 shots compared with 21 for Villanova. But the Wildcats hit 11 three-pointers while GW only hit three.
The teams traded baskets most of the first half before Hilgenberg hit three straight baskets for Villanova to give the Wildcats a 21-17 lead with 6:25 remaining in the half.
Villanova took a 27-20 lead on a Juhline lay-up before GW cut the lead to four, 27-23, heading into the locker room.
GW 71, Oklahoma 61
Sunday, March 24
A 21-4 run to open the second half sparked the Colonials to a first round victory over the Sooners (19-13) Sunday night, 71-61.
Montanana hit a jumper to open the second half and cut the Sooner lead to one, 32-31, and a pair of three-pointers by Joens and Montanana gave GW the lead for good.
“When we were up, I just think we were kind of excited, playing in the game,” Joens said. “We just wanted to keep our run going.”
The Colonials took a 50-36 lead with just under 15 minutes to play. Joens, who hit a pair of three-pointers, and Lindsey Davidson, who scored four of her eight points during the run, sparked the Colonials.
Joens led GW with 22 points while shooting 5-for-6 from the outside.
“We give our kids a lot of freedom,” McKeown said. “Cathy Joens has the green light. As a matter of fact, she’s past the green light, she’s getting speeding tickets now. With a player like that you’ve just got to let her shoot.”
Montanana added 19 points and had four steals while Ugo Oha scored 14, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking six shots.
Maria Villarroel led Oklahoma, scoring a game-high 26 points on 10-for-15 shooting.
Just as fast as the Colonials opened up a 14-point lead, Oklahoma stormed back to cut the lead to one, 55-54.
“Basketball’s a game of droughts and runs and you’ve got to be able to answer things,” Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale said.
The Sooners cut the lead to one, 55-54, with eight minutes to go when Villarroel hit a pair of free throws. GW answered with a 9-1 run, capped by an Oha eight-foot jumper to put the Colonials up 64-55.
Oklahoma couldn’t get any closer than four points the rest of the way and GW hit 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to stop any chance of a Sooner run.
Villarroel hit a fast-break lay-up off the opening tip to give OU the early 2-0 lead.
GW opened up their largest lead of the first half, 11-5, when Montanana hit a jumper five minutes into the game.
Oklahoma followed with an 11-0 run over the next six minutes to take a 16-11 lead. Villarroel scored eight of the team’s 11 points during the run, all on lay-ups.
The Sooners opened up their largest lead of the game, eight points, when Theresa Schuknecht hit a jumper with eight minutes to go in the half to make the score 21-13.
The Colonials cut the lead to one, 28-27, with just over a minute to go in the half before heading into the locker room down three, 32-29.