First time’s a charm for women against Saint Louis

Setting a good precedent is important, and the GW women’s basketball team did just that Monday night in an 84-46 sinking of Saint Louis in the two programs’ first-ever matchup.

The Colonials (16-5, 8-2 Atlantic 10) not only set an example for the conference newcomers, but for themselves as well. The squad’s 49 first-half points are the most the team has registered in a half all season, while the eight three-point shots also made for a season high. Junior Kenan Cole and sophomore Sarah-Jo Lawrence led the Colonials with 20 points and six assists, respectively, both career-highs.

“Everyone was hitting them tonight, but we were getting some really good looks against the zone,” Cole said of the team’s success outside the arc. “When we moved the ball and reversed it around, we were getting wide-open looks.”

Cole’s importance to the team has grown over the course of the season. She averaged 6.6 points per game in non-conference play; since A-10 play began, she has averaged 10.9. Beyond co-leading the team in scoring average with Lawrence, she also gives the team a jumpstart by quickly putting points on the board. As one of the team’s oldest players, she has taken a leadership role, clocking 30 minutes or more in most games. And the extra time she puts in at the gym has started to show in her clear shot selection and execution.

“She’s a workaholic,” coach Joe McKeown said. “She lives in the gym. What separates her is her work ethic. She’s pretty much unflappable. It doesn’t matter to her (who we’re playing), she’s just pretty much very consistent.

“You feed off your teammates, and her teammates are starting to look to her, so they’re finding her when she’s open and getting her into a little bit of rhythm. They’re starting to believe in her and I think she feels that from them.”

Also standing out against the Billikens (5-16, 2-8 A-10) was junior Whitney Allen. The forward shot seven-for-10 from the field with 14 points. Sophomore Kim Beck and Lawrence each recorded 10 points.

Redshirt freshman Lisa Steele, who has been plagued by injuries during her GW career, showed promise in her 12 minutes of play. After being forced to ride the bench last season and many games this season due to injury, she is finally playing the way McKeown knows she can. She made two three-pointers against Saint Louis and tallied eight points in her limited court time.

“She’s still a little bit out of game shape,” McKeown said. “We’re not a great outside shooting team but she is a great shooter. She gives us not just the ability to make shots, but the threat, and that’s what we haven’t had. I think if we can keep her healthy, Lisa can be a big factor down the stretch.”

Freshman Jazmine Adair also played for 12 minutes but recorded 10 rebounds, six offensively. Twin Jessica played for five minutes longer, with half as many boards.

“We’re finally getting both of them where they are able to contribute to the team at the same time,” McKeown said. “I’m really proud of (Jazmine). She had a rough time when she got here. She’s really worked hard to get better. She’s become much more disciplined.”

With the sisters proving so effective under the net, senior Jessica Simmonds has seen less time in many games. She has also been dealing with opponents targeting her post prowess.

“She’s a big time player,” McKeown said. “We’re starting to see a lot of zone defense and she gets frustrated. She’s getting double teamed, getting banged around down there. She’s also the kind of player in March that can put you on her back in the tournament and get you 20 points. She has a lot of pride.”

The Colonials won their 10th straight home game Monday, with the last home loss dating back to early December against powerhouse Tennessee. They are also 7-0 this season when playing after a loss. The squad will take to the road, visiting Duquesne this Friday followed by St. Bonaventure on Sunday.

“I think we have to keep improving, keep getting better, and just take it game by game,” Cole said. “We can’t get comfortable after having such a big win like this but go look to make a statement again with the next game we play.”

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