Posted Sunday, March 20, 11:32 p.m.
Updated Monday, March 21, 2:17 a.m.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.-The GW women’s basketball team’s 60-57 first round NCAA Tournament victory over Mississippi Sunday night helped define the term “March Madness.” The Colonials trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half but used a nine-minute, 19-2 run down the stretch to edge Ole Miss at the Dean E. Smith Center.
“I didn’t expect to get down by 14 … but we never quit and we played hard,” GW head coach Joe McKeown said. “Our team exemplifies a blue-collar team, we are not always pretty but we find a way to win.”
“When things started rolling backwards we just couldn’t stop it,” Mississippi coach Carol Ross said.
With the win, GW (23-8) advances to the second round, where they will face No. 1 seed North Carolina (28-3) Tuesday night. The Colonials have the added challenge of playing the Tar Heels on their home floor, where they have won 17 straight.
The Colonials trailed 34-33 at halftime, but came out sluggish in the second, as Mississippi (19-11) went on a 12-0 run after the break. GW did not score its first points of the second half until the 14:26 mark. With less than 10 minutes remaining, things looked bleak for the Colonials, as they trailed 55-41 and had scored just eight points in the first 10 minutes of the second.
Then, McKeown decided it was time to shake things up. He inserted sophomore Amanda LoCascio and freshman Sarah-Jo Lawrence into the game. The two bench players ignited GW, as LoCascio nailed a three-pointer to cut the lead to nine before Lawrence rattled off six consecutive points to pull the Colonials within three. With just 2:13 remaining, LoCascio drove the lane and was fouled. She connected on both free-throw attempts to give GW the lead 56-55.
After senior Anna Monta?ana’s fade-away jumper put the Colonials up three, Ole Miss ended a nine-minute scoreless drought to make it a one-point game, 58-57. Then, after a missed GW shot, Mississippi had the ball out of bounds with just 12.1 seconds remaining, down one point. In perhaps the biggest play of the night, freshman Kimberly Beck tipped the errant Ole Miss inbounds pass to Monta?ana, who was immediately fouled.
She stepped to the line and calmly hit both free throws to put GW up three points. With just nine seconds remaining, the Lady Rebels had one chance, but an errant three-point shot barely grazed the rim as time expired.
GW clamped down on defense, not allowing a point for almost nine minutes during their second half run.
“I think we understood if we didn’t pick it up we were going home,” Beck said.
Beck’s defense and court leadership was key in the run, as she finished with nine points and four assists. LoCascio and Lawrence combined for 13 points and helped lead the Colonials to victory.
“We were struggling and she just came in and turned the game around,” McKeown said of LoCascio’s performance. “She hit a big three for us and played with a lot of poise.”
“I told coach do not take me out of this game,” LoCascio added. “I wanted this game more anything.”
“She’s fearless,” McKeown said of Lawrence. “She started really to take the ball hard to the lane and she is one of those kids who never stops moving. Tonight was a big step for her confidence wise.”
Monta?ana finished with 13 points and five assists. Senior Jessica Simmonds finished with 14 points and 6 rebounds. Senior Liz Dancause hit three consecutive jumpers in the early second and finished with six points.
GW will have less than 48 hours to prepare to beat a No.1 seed on its home floor. However, the Colonials do have some history on their side. The last time the two schools met was, March 22, 1997 in the NCAA Tournament. GW knocked off the No.1 Tar Heels 55-46 on their way to the Elite Eight.