Personnel flop sends message to starters

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 24 — If there is one area where there is little variety when it comes to the No. 17/16 GW (AP, ESPN/USA Today) women’s basketball team, it is the starting lineup. Almost every game finds seniors Kim Beck, Sarah-Jo Lawrence and Whitney Allen and juniors Antelia Parrish and Jessica Adair on the court at the tip.

But it was a four-minute span early in the second half without that crew that might have given the Colonials what was necessary in their 61-53 victory over Saint Joseph’s Sunday afternoon.

With GW down one and the starters struggling, coach Joe McKeown pulled all five and put in freshman Erica River, sophomore Stefanie Munro, juniors Jazmine Adair and Lisa Steele, and senior Lora Mitchell. With the exception of Jazmine, who is the team’s sixth man and started five games earlier in the season, all see sporadic time from his bench. It seemed like McKeown was both making a statement to his top players – you cannot play this way and expect to win – and to his bench – you are an important part of this team, too.

When the quintet flip-flopped again, eight points later, the two teams were tied and GW (22-5, 10-2 Atlantic 10) looked to have some new life breathed back into it. Though the lead teetered between the two teams after the starters returned to the game, there was a feeling of a new beginning among the players.

“When our bench came in, it was like an emotional swing for us,” Beck said. “They got a couple big steals and made some big shots.”

Beck and her fellow starters did not appear to be disgruntled while they were on the bench. In contrast, they actually looked to be more energetic than the average player who was just pulled from the game.

“Coach said in the locker room (at the half) that that’s the epitome of being a team,” Beck said of the starters’ support of the bench. “They picked up the pace. That’s what turned the game around. We want them to suceed as much as they want to succeed. When they were out there we were cheering it up and they just turned the game around.”

“When we went to our bomb squad, the old Dean Smith blue team, we were flat,” McKeown added, referencing the former University of North Carolina coach who was known for separating his teams into two squads. “Those guys gave us great energy. That was really important for us.”

Saint Joe’s (14-13, 6-6 A-10) coach Cindy Griffin also noticed the five-player swap and its importance to the game.

“When Joe got mad and subbed his five subs in, he made a point to his starters,” Griffin said. “That helped them.”

The Colonials’ bench has seen limited time this season, a fact that McKeown has said he knows could hurt his team down the stretch. The six second-string players who played against the Hawks saw a total of 26 minutes, which is about half what the bench has averaged this season. But during that four-minute span, it was exactly what the Colonials needed.

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