For McKeown, preseason is about the lineup

With four starters and 11 of 13 players returning from last year’s Sweet 16-reaching roster, it would seem women’s basketball coach Joe McKeown would not have much to figure out in regards to the lineup. Friday night’s 95-68 exhibition victory over the DT-3 All-Stars provided McKeown with a chance to see his regulars in action alongside one another.

A series of injuries have limited a number of Colonials’ availability for practice. Sophomore Ivy Abiona has yet to practice this season because of a torn meniscus and junior Lisa Steele, who has struggled with injuries throughout her career, suffered yet another after recently rolling her ankle during practice. Juniors Jazmine and Jessica Adair have each had nagging injuries of their own, which limited the duo’s playing time Friday.

“In this type of game, you’re just trying to see how people play with each other,” McKeown said after the win. “We have so many injuries, I just don’t know. I’m swapping a power forward like Jazmine or Jessica with a small forward and trying to get away with it, so I wanted to see how that worked.”

The high-scoring affair also allowed some experimentation with senior Kim Beck’s role in the offense. Beck, normally a traditional pass-first point guard, displayed a stronger scoring acumen, a dimension of her game that the coaching staff has decided to emphasize heading into the season.

“We talked a lot this fall about her taking more of a bigger role in scoring,” McKeown said. “You run all these screens and all these great offenses. You think you’re running all this great stuff for somebody, and your best shooter gives the ball up. And you’re thinking ‘that’s not that smart,’ so we’re trying to be a little smarter.”

McKeown also said he has to figure out how to include his other two point guards, sophomore Stefani Munro and freshman Erica Rivera, alongside Beck. Rivera scored twice on breakaway layups that energized the team and elicited enthusiastic approval from the crowd but lost control of the ball out of bounds on what would have been her third basket.

“Tonight, you saw glimpses of what she’s capable of,” McKeown said of the team’s only freshman. “But like any freshman, everything’s new. She needs to get stronger and quicker and learn how to make open shots.”

Munro may be used more in a relief role, filling in and running the offense when Beck needs rest, which in the past has been rare. McKeown joked that “the gods of basketball” may come after him for using Beck so heavily during her GW career, necessitating the preparation of Munro to contribute off the bench. While her six turnovers were less than ideal as a ball handler, her coach praised her determination and work ethic.

“Nobody works harder,” McKeown said. “She wants to be a good player, so it’s just trying to get her to run your team.”

The cumulative result of the experiments seemed to be positive, with a 95-point offensive outburst that drew contributions from a number of players in a variety of different roles. Whatever the formula, if the points keep coming from many directions, the only thing McKeown will have to figure out is which NCAA regional the Colonials will fly to in March.

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