GW faces weekend test

The loss still stings GW women’s basketball coach Joe McKeown. Well, two losses actually.

“I wasn’t sure if you were talking about the Eagles or La Salle,” said McKeown, a lifelong Philly fan.

In the grand scheme of things, the Colonials’ 65-53 loss to the Explorers last week probably hurts more than the Birds’ Super Bowl collapse. Still, McKeown said his young team is right where it’s supposed to be.

After falling to La Salle for the first time since 1981, the Colonials (14-7, 7-3 Atlantic 10) bounced right back to beat Dayton at home last Sunday.

Now, he said, they’ll have to keep up the good work, which continues with two consecutive road games. GW will play Duquesne (7-14, 2-8 A-10) Thursday night at 7 p.m. before facing A-10 West-leading Richmond (17-4, 8-2 A-10) Sunday at noon.

McKeown said his team will be wary of the Dukes despite the fact they are in the league’s cellar. While La Salle (10-11, 4-6 A-10) is much improved this season, the loss showed GW’s vulnerabilities. The Colonials are young, and despite the fact that they have a contingent of talented freshmen, the reality of the situation is that they are still rookies who have not experienced the ups and downs of a full season yet.

Thus, McKeown said, his team must narrow its scope.

“The only thing you can do is talk about who’s next,” he said. “Because nothing else is really that important until the next game. I think our players, some of them have never been through this. Somebody can jump up and bite you. We’re still GW; everyone gives us their best shot.”

La Salle did just that last week, turning its play up a notch down the stretch and producing 11-0 and 17-10 runs to put the game out of reach. Experience can only do so much, McKeown said. The Explorers simply started hitting shots and, to make matters worse, he said, senior center Jessica Simmonds (14.7 points per game) was not feeling well.

While Simmonds and senior All-American candidate Anna Monta?ana (16 points, 6.9 assists per game) have been the Colonials’ main offensive weapons this season, they are getting help from a rapidly progressing group of underclassmen.

Take freshman point guard Kimberly Beck, for example. She has been exceptional, leading the A-10 in assists (5.16 per game) while averaging a boatload of minutes for a rookie (34.2 per game), which is second most on the team (Montanana averages 35.3).

“She’s been amazing, especially when you factor she hasn’t had much rest,” McKeown said of Beck.

Sophomore Whitney Allen has been solid off the bench, McKeown said. In about 18 minutes per game, the forward has averaged only 5.5 points per game but has been an unsung member of the GW squad.

“She does all the little things that don’t show up in the stat sheet,” McKeown said. “That intensity helps us.”

Beck’s stamina has not seemed to affect her of late, as her seven-point, one-minute long flurry sparked the Colonials’ win over Dayton Sunday.

“I think she seems to flourish in that kind of environment,” McKeown added of her clutch performance.

The coach does hope to have guard Amanda LoCascio back in a week or two, which may help give Beck a breather when she needs it. The sophomore has struggled with leg and ankle ailments and has played in only nine of 19 games this season.

In the meantime, Beck and her teammates will look to knock of the Dukes before facing Richmond on the road at noon Sunday. The Colonials defeated the then-No. 25 Spiders 69-57 on Jan. 19 at the Smith Center.

Beck scored 11 points and had seven assists in the win, leading an up-tempo offensive charge that helped lead to Simmonds’ 17 points. If GW wants to beat Richmond again, it needs to again play tough defense against forward Kate Flavin, who is second in the conference in scoring at 17.8 points per game. She only scored eight points in the teams’ last meeting.

“I thought we were really physical,” McKeown said of the Jan. 19 game with Richmond. “When we do that we’re pretty good. We’re very dangerous when we can set that kind of pace.”

As of right now, the coach said he has not even thought about postseason play, which would include home court advantage in the A-10 Tournament, which begins Mar. 4 at the Smith Center. Tunnel vision and not thinking ahead are paramount to success, he said.

“The biggest thing is getting people healthy and rested,” McKeown added. “In all honesty, we haven’t looked that far ahead.”

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