Entering its Atlantic 10 season opener against Xavier, the No. 17 GW women’s basketball team knew the ESPN2 cameras would give the team its final chance before the A-10 tournament to show the country who they have become over the last month.
After three disappointing losses in November, a 25-point trouncing at home against then-No. 6/7 (AP, ESPN/USA Today) Rutgers University, at James Madison by the same margin and against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, it was important for GW to prove that those losses were an early straying from the path that was supposed to lead them deep into March.
A 56-46 win over the Musketeers Sunday evening capped off a complete turnaround that leaves the Colonials (13-3, 1-0 A-10) closer to where they thought they would be now – among the top teams in women’s college basketball.
The Xavier victory featured most of what has allowed GW to bounce back after the shaky start: strong defense coupled with widespread scoring. Junior Jessica Adair had 15 points, her fourth straight game in double digits, and senior Kim Beck has put up similar statistics. Senior Sarah-Jo Lawrence, while scoring only nine against the Musketeers, may be what sparked the transformation.
Lawrence had a career-high 29 points in a 66-65 overtime win against then-No. 12/11 Texas A&M, including a three-pointer that tied the game with four seconds remaining in regulation. Lawrence also had 18 points in a 68-66 win at then-No. 18 Auburn. Coach Joe McKeown said that those two games, along with the Xavier victory, have shown how far his team has come since the Rutgers debacle.
“(I thought the) Texas A&M (game) kind of rectified the problems we had been having,” he said. “I thought that game gave us a huge lift. Tonight was more of a carry-over, after going down to Auburn and winning there.”
The A-10, as a whole, is weaker than the Colonials’ out-of-conference schedule, so the team may not have as much difficulty winning. While Temple always presents a tough match-up for GW, the Owls are having a down year, with a 7-10 record. Dayton could be the team that gives the Colonials the biggest challenge. The Flyers are 15-2 and have not lost since Nov. 10. Beck said her team does not overlook any opponent and that they will bring the same intensity to every game.
That intensity was clear against Xavier, as early in the contest senior Whitney Allen chased after a ball that was headed out of bounds and used both hands to toss the ball backwards onto the court before falling into a media table. Likewise, Adair went sailing into her coaches while going after a loose ball.
McKeown said he is glad that Beck understands the importance to taking every game seriously but that he is worried that some of her teammates may not.
If GW does come out to each game with the same intensity as against Texas A&M, Auburn and Xavier, the end result could be an undefeated conference slate, similar to the 2007 season, and a team that is a far cry from the one that was present in November.