Posted Monday, March 7, 10:07 p.m. Late in the Atlantic 10 Tournament final Monday evening, the GW women’s basketball team looked ready to pull off an upset of Temple. After a 19-7 run slashed a 17-point Owls lead, The Colonials trailed 56-52 with less than three minutes left in the game.
However, the A-10 Player of the Year Candice Dupree came to the rescue, nailing a step-back jumper and a pair of free throws on consecutive possessions to put Temple up eight with less than two minutes left, essentially giving her team the Championship.
Temple hit its free throws late, and defeated the Colonials 70-62 in front of 2,319 fans at the Smith Center.
“You can’t spot them lead and then try to make it up it because it just takes so much energy,” GW head coach Joe McKeown said. “Tonight it just felt we were climbing the entire game, it just took so much energy. They’ve got a lot of ways to beat you, if you shut one down another one steps up, they really feed off of that.”
Dupree was later named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
“We always had a hand up but we couldn’t really defend that shot without giving her a foul,” senior Jessica Simmonds said of Dupree’s performance. “We did what we could as a team.”
The No.15 Owls (Associated Press) won all 19 of their A-10 games this season, and are currently on a 24-game win-streak. Temple (27-3) has won back-to-back A-10 Championships and received an automatic bid in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The Colonials’ post-season hopes now sit in the hands of the selection committee. GW (22-8) is No. 37 in RPI (Collegerpi.com) and has beaten four teams with top 50 RPIs.
“I felt we were in (the NCAAs) going into the (A-10) tournament,” McKeown said. “I think we have taken care of our own business, the only thing we didn’t do was finish it off tonight. I think we are as competitive as any team that’s out there I am just concerned about where they are going to put us. I have been on that proverbial bubble before and slid off and it’s a long fall, and it hurts.”
Monta?ana finished the game with 26 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists. She was named to the all-tournament team and became the 13th player in program history to score 1,300 points in her career. She is just seven points away from tying GW’s other Spanish star, Elisa Aguilar’s career total.
“I think we fought through most of the second half but we just didn’t get it,” Monta?ana said. “I think my team gave 120 percent tonight. If we would have played better in the first half we could have won this game. We have a really, really young team and this is their first big final at home so I think they were tired.”
The game see-sawed back and forth early on, but the Colonials first-half shooting struggles left them six points behind 28-22 at the break. GW shot 35 percent from the field during the first half.
Monta?ana turned out one of her best all-around performances in her final appearance at the Smith Center.
Defenses have keyed on her throughout her career, a fact that is not lost on McKeown, who said she “gets double-teamed just crossing 22nd street.”
Simmonds scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half and was named to the all-tournament team.
“I think I was frustrated early I should have let them game come to me,” she said.
Simmonds sat out all of last year after transferring from Providence College. She held back tears while speaking of her first year at GW. She is a senior, but has one year of eligibility left.
“I don’t even know what to say, I am so privileged to come to this team and play with these great players,” Simmonds said. “I love GW. I waited a year to play for this team.”
Freshman Kimberly Beck, who has been GW’s spark plug all season, never found her offensive rhythm and was 0-for-6 from the field. She picked up several fouls early in the game eventually fouled out with 1:09 remaining.
She had seven assists in the contest pushing her season total to 159.
Sophomore Kenan Cole had nine points on 4-for-7 shooting and classmate Whitney Allen had 12 rebounds. The loss snapped the Colonials 22 game winning streak at the Smith Center and nine game winning streak overall.
Temple had five players in double figures, including Dupree who finished with 31 points and nine rebounds. Ari Moore had 14 points for the Owls and was also named to the all-tournament team.
Temple head coach Dawn Staley had much praise towards GW.
“They are a very dangerous team and I do believe they will get into the tournament,” Staley said. “They have a potent offensive player (Monta?ana), she is not your ordinary college player. She can do a lot of things with the basketball offensively. They have a post player (Simmonds) who doesn’t back down from anyone.”