For the second time in three seasons, the GW women’s basketball team will play for the Atlantic 10 Championship on its home court.
In the second semifinal Sunday, the Colonials easily defeated Richmond 63-44 at the Smith Center. GW (22-7) now will face No. 16 Temple (ESPN/USA Today) Monday at 5 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and admission is free for the first 500 students in attendance.
To advance to the semis, GW beat Fordham 62-51 Saturday in the quarters.
The Owls (26-3) defeated Xavier 64-61 earlier in the day for their 23rd straight victory. A-10 player of the year Candice Dupree had 24 points and nine rebounds in the victory. Temple is the defending conference tournament champion.
“I respect (Temple) because they played a national schedule but we did too,” GW head coach Joe McKeown said. “They will be ready tomorrow night but so will we. We are talking about a championship game, which is a one shot deal, so it’s going to be a great game.”
GW last hosted the championship game in 2003, defeating Rhode Island 56-49. The Colonials have won nine consecutive games and 22 straight games at the Smith Center.
GW’s defense keyed the win over Richmond (23-7) Sunday. The Colonials forced 20 turnovers (including 13 steals) and scored 21 points off the Spiders’ miscues. The Colonials also held the Spiders to just 21 percent from the floor (5-of-23) in the second half.
“The key was to not let them to reverse the ball because it made them collapse, and I think we boxed out well in the second half,” senior Anna Monta?ana said.
Richmond was without Kate Flavin (17.4 points per game), who injured her knee in the last game of the regular season.
Monta?ana and senior Jessica Simmonds led the Colonials’ high-powered offense, scoring 16 and 12 points, respectively. Freshman Kimberly Beck had another solid performance with 11 points, 7 steals and 4 assists.
Beck’s 152 assists this season is tied for seventh best in program history.
GW also got a surprise performance from sophomore Corrine Turner, who averaged just nine minutes a game and two points per game during the regular season. Turner played 19 minutes in the contest, grabbed four rebounds and scored five points.
Turner provided a much-needed defensive presence inside.
“When it’s time to play conference games, everything else goes out the window. You have to step up your game and play as hard as you can,” Turner said. “There is no room for mistakes. You have to go out there and have amnesia.”
“Corrinne just has had a tough year,” McKeown said. “Nothing went well for her in the beginning of the season and then she had some injuries. There is a sophomore jinx you hear about in college basketball and I think it really bit her, but if you’re going to start playing well, right now is a pretty good time.”
The Colonials outscored Richmond 34-20 in the paint. GW beat Richmond for the third time this season.
“When we play poised and under control we are one of the better teams in college basketball,” McKeown said.
When the Colonials last faced Temple in Philadelphia on Jan. 27, the Owls won 72-64. Monta?ana had 22 points in the loss and Simmonds scored 20. Cynthia Jordan burned the Colonials for 26 points while Dupree had 18 points and 12 rebounds.
“I think it’s going to be hard to beat GW on their home floor but it’s a situation we have been in before having beat St. Joseph’s on their home floor last year,” Temple head coach Dawn Staley said. “I don’t really care who we have to play, our opponents are nameless and faceless, we are going to be prepared.”
When the two teams met at the Smith Center last year, GW grabbed a 61-52 victory. The Smith Center was about half-full Sunday with about 2,200 fans in the crowd, but the Colonials said they still want more of the students to come out and support them.
“How many times do you get to play a conference championship game in your own gym?” McKeown said. “So I think the students will come out and it will be a great atmosphere.”
GW 62, Fordham 51
The Colonials used a 19-0 run during the second half of its Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinal match-up with Fordham to defeat the Rams 62-51 Saturday afternoon.
“We didn’t play well the first half and lost some of our poise,” McKeown said. “We did a good job settling down in the second half.”
Fordham stormed out to a 30-26 halftime lead on the Colonials, but the second half belonged to senior Anna Monta?ana and freshman Kimberly Beck. The duo went 6-of-7 from behind the arc and combined for 25 points in the second half. Beck was 4-for-4 after intermission.
Monta?ana finished with 19 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Beck finished with 12 points and 7 assists and was the offensive spark the Colonials needed to knock-off a scrappy Fordham team.
“I have been in the gym working on my shot lately and they began to fall,” Beck said. “As a point guard I don’t really look to score first.”
“But it helps when she does,” McKeown quickly added.
The Colonials’ swarming defense forced Fordham to shoot 29 percent from the field in the second half, as the Rams scored just 21 points after the break.
Senior forward Jessica Simmonds had 13 points and six rebounds in the win, but freshman guard Sarah-Jo Lawrence (6 points) might have been the difference maker against Fordham Saturday.
“Sarah-Jo Lawrence has more energy than any 20 people I have ever met in my life,” McKeown said. “We put her on (Fordham’s) Monica Mack and tried to wear her out. I think Mack got tired and that was important because Fordham really feeds off her.”
Mack finished the game with 12 points and six turnovers.
The Colonials started the game off slow, trailing by as much as 14 in the first half. Trailing 23-16, GW went on a 10-3 run which sophomore Kenan Cole capped with a jumper to tie the score at 26.
During the final minute of the first half, Monta?ana committed a reach-in foul on Vanessa Silva, and after the call, the forward jarred with Fordham’s Jada Jefferson. Monta?ana was charged with a technical. The argument did not end there, as McKeown and Fordham head coach Jim Lewis exchanged words.
The disagreement intensified and both coaches were restrained by fellow coaches and players.
Neither coach would speak in detail about the argument but fans sitting behind the bench said that Lewis used a “highly offensive expletive” toward McKeown.
Monta?ana hit her 100th career three-pointer during the game. She is the ninth player in program history to reach the milestone.