After the No. 11/14 (AP and ESPN/USAToday) GW women’s basketball team’s 61-48 win over Massachusetts Sunday afternoon, head coach Joe McKeown signed autographs for many of the game’s 800-plus attendees. What made McKeown the Smith Center celebrity was the milestone the win represented: his 400th coaching victory.
McKeown said this honor belonged not just to him but to every player and every team he’s coached since coming to GW in 1989. He said he’s lucky to have found a program willing to let him stay at the reins for such a long tenure.
“When you’re in the middle of your season, the main focus is really your next game and your team, but as far as winning 400 at GW, the essence of that becomes all of the great players and support we’ve had over the years,” McKeown said. “I think what (I’m) most proud of is that we’ve never dipped. We’ve never had a bad season; never had a losing season.”
When McKeown took over the Colonials in September 1989, they were coming off a 9-19 record. Since then, GW has never finished a season below .500. That tradition looks like it will continue this year. McKeown’s current squad appears to have the potential to run the conference table and emerge as Atlantic 10 regular season and A-10 Tournament champions.
Against UMass (10-3, 0-3 A-10), GW (14-2, 3-0 A-10) showed why it could be so dangerous. After shooting a weak 32 percent from the floor in the first half, the Colonials came out in the second half with a 21-9 run to pull ahead by 17. Senior Kenan Cole, who led both teams with 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting, including 3-for-5 from downtown, has been key in the team’s success so far and will need to continue her shooting prowess.
“I think we did a lot better job of moving the ball around in the second half,” Cole said. “We were getting wide-open looks from the outside and the inside. We did a lot better job attacking their zone defense in the second half.”
Sophomores Jessica and Jazmine Adair have also found their games, something that McKeown said is very important to his team’s future. While the two rarely saw the floor at the same time during out-of-conference play, they teamed up against UMass for 24 points (13 for Jessica, 11 for Jazmine) and 15 rebounds (nine and six, respectively).
“Today was the best I’ve seen Jazmine and Jessica play together,” McKeown said. “That’s a great sign for us. They change the game with their size and with their shot-blocking ability.”
McKeown said that junior Kim Beck’s low shooting percentage against UMass (Beck was 3-for-10 from the field) isn’t something the squad is worried about. He also said that junior Whitney Allen’s early foul trouble (she picked up three fouls in the first half) would not deter him from using her in the future.
The squad’s toughest challenges in the conference are still to come, with Xavier and La Salle, two of the conference’s top teams this season, on tap in the next weeks. The Colonials do not face Temple, the fourth power squad in the A-10, until the last game of the season. But with the kind of success GW has found so far, the real question seems to be which team will hand the Colonials their next loss.
Rhode Island will have the first opportunity, Thursday evening at Smith Center at 7 p.m.