Thursday, Jan. 3, 10:35 p.m.
AUBURN, Ala., Jan. 3 — In her three-plus years as a member of the women’s basketball program, redshirt junior Lisa Steele has had her fair share of disappointments. She is perpetually plagued with injuries and often finds difficulty connecting from outside the arc.
But in a 68-66 victory over No. 18 Auburn University Thursday night, Steele put the adversity aside and hit what might have been her team’s biggest shot all season – a three-point swoosh with 1.1 seconds remaining to clinch the No. 19 Colonials’ sixth-straight victory.
Steele played only five minutes and hit just that shot. And though it was that one basket that ultimately decided the game’s fate, it was the team’s familiar faces that helped her get there.
GW head coach Joe McKeown credited senior Kim Beck’s ability to calm her team down when it lost its lead late in the second half. He also complimented her on finding an open Steele in the final seconds even though Beck is typically the one to take that final shot. Steele said Beck made the “perfect pass.”
Senior Sarah-Jo Lawrence had 18 points to lead the Colonials (11-3), while Beck added 16 points and junior Jessica Adair had 15 points. Lawrence also hit an important three-point shot, from almost the exact same place where Steele would launch hers, with less than four minutes remaining. Just minutes before, the Colonials had coughed up the lead after being in charge the entire game, including an 11-point advantage early in the second half.
Lawrence shot 6-for-8 from the floor and Beck 6-for-11, leading a shooting attack that shot just less than 50 percent for the game. Lawrence said her team did not rebound the ball well (the Tigers had 41 rebounds to the Colonials’ 31) and thus moved the plan of attack to the outside.
“We didn’t go a very good job rebounding,” she said. “We then became really focused on hitting our outside shots. If we made them, it was easy to take the momentum.”
Auburn (12-3), like GW, finished the game with most of its scoring spread between three players – freshman Alli Smalley (17 points), senior DeWanna Bonner (14 points, 12 rebounds) and junior Sherrell Hobbs (12 points). Every time the Colonials appeared to have the momentum and the ability to put the Tigers out of contention, one of those three players seemed to hit a big shot, especially Smalley, who shot 7-for-10 and 3-for-6 from three-point range.
Beck said she knew it was not going to be easy playing in front of a rowdy crowd, which numbered more than 1,200, most of them decked in a sea of orange and navy, but Beck had a small cheering section of her own. A native of Fairburn, Ga., which is less than two hours from Auburn, Beck hosted her teammates for dinner Wednesday and had the comfort of knowing her family was watching.
“When they went on a run, the whole house went crazy,” Beck said. “But when we hit something, my family and friends would match their fans. That was a lot of help, to have someone else rooting for you.
The Colonials wrap up their non-conference schedule Jan. 6 at Smith Center against Brown University. Tip is scheduled for 2 p.m.