Posted Sunday, March 19, 5:19 p.m.
Updated 1:34 a.m.
NORFOLK, Va. — The George Washington women’s basketball team entered their first round match-up in the NCAA Tournament knowing they would have to play not only against the five Old Dominion Lady Monarchs on the floor, but also against their approximately 6,500 rowdy fans.
Sunday, none of that seemed to matter.
Despite the disadvantage, the Colonials came away with an 87-72 victory, advancing them to the second round of the tournament, where they will face the No. 2 Tennessee Lady Volunteers.
“When we first came out, we heard (the crowd) cheering for Old Dominion, so we knew they were going to be really into it,” sophomore Sarah-Jo Lawrence said. “We just used that as fire to come out all the more pumped. We knew the crowd wasn’t going to be a huge factor in what we did, so we just turned it around.”
“Our main focus today was to come out and quiet the crowd,” senior Jessica Simmonds said. “We didn’t want them in the game the whole time. We had the goal of keeping them quiet.”
The two teams played even for eight minutes until the Colonials (23-8) went on an 18-3 run sparked by Lawrence off the bench midway through the first half. They extended their lead to 22 and led 46-29 at the half.
“I thought everyone was passing the ball very well, and everyone was catching it and putting it in the basket. In the first half, it seemed like we were making everything,” sophomore Kim Beck said.
The second half featured an increase in pressure from both the Lady Monarchs and the crowd. ODU (22-9) slowly chipped away at the Colonials’ 17-point lead, coming within seven twice in the final 2:13. It was the Colonials’ attitude that allowed them to remain in control and come out victorious, Simmonds said.
“I think that my team did a great job today,” she said. “They had a lot of composure, poise, heart. They competed, they brought so much to the table for us. I was just so happy with their performance today; they played great everywhere.”
Lawrence had a game-high 20 points, while Beck registered her second career double-double with 15 points and personal-best 13 rebounds. Freshman Jazmine Adair also added a double-double with 10 points and10 rebounds, while twin Jessica Adair had 14 points. Junior Whitney Allen rounded out the team’s double-digit scorers with 13.
“I thought we were due for a game offensively,” head coach Joe McKeown said. “We’ve struggled to score the past few weeks. It just helped us to get some great shots early. To have six players in double figures, that’s a fantasy for me.”
Tuesday’s match-up against Tennessee (29-4) will pit the Colonials against a crowd similar to the one they faced in their first game. The Lady Vols defeated Army 102-54 earlier in the day in front of thousands of their own fans. Tennessee defeated GW during in the regular season, 59-43.
Tennessee freshman Candace Parker dunked twice during the team’s victory, becoming the first female to do so in the NCAA Tournament.
The dunk that, “got us on SportsCenter again,” as Tennessee coach Pat Summitt put it, was part of Parker’s 26-point, performance. She had 14 points when the Colonials and Lady Vols met on Dec. 7, 2005.