Sunday, March 9, 5:41 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA — In the last decade of the GW women’s basketball team’s series with Xavier, neither team has won more than two consecutive games. So while the Colonials surely appreciated their victory over Xavier in January of 2007 and again this season in January of 2008, they might have wished history favored buff and blue for their Atlantic 10 semifinal match-up Sunday.
Unfortunately for No. 13/12 (AP, ESPN/USA Today) GW, it didn’t. The Xavier big bodies of Ta’Shia Phillips and Amber Harris scored a combined 37 points and had 17 rebounds in a winning effort, as the Musketeers withstood the Colonials, 63-59.
Usually, it is GW’s low post players Jessica and Jazmine Adair running up the score in the Colonials’ favor. On Sunday, the buff and blue were only able to get a combined 36 minutes of play out of the two sisters, as each ran into foul trouble. The physical game saw players from both teams diving after balls on the floor and muscling each other in search of positioning for rebounds, but when junior Jessica Adair picked up her third and fourth fouls within the second half’s first two minutes (four seconds apart) and had to take a seat on the bench, it was apparent that “playing small” would spell trouble for the title-seeking Colonials.
Without GW’s twin towers in the game, Phillips (6-foot-6) and Harris (6-foot-5) were able to own the paint, scoring 30 points down low compared to GW’s 16.
“Definitely getting away with a lot of hard hits,” Phillips said. “(There were) hard fouls, really high intensity rebounds, but sometimes you have to suck it up and do what you know how to do.”
Even when head coach Joe McKeown put Jazmine Adair onto the floor with four fouls and much of the game still to play, she seemed a bit more tentative and aware that one false move could send her to the bench for good. It was at this point that Xavier took their first lead of the second half, on the strength of back-to-back Phillips and Harris baskets down low.
“It’s definitely easier when somebody’s playing with fouls because they know that now the refs are watching for each thing,” Phillips said. “Even a slight nick of the hand can cause a foul, so that makes it a whole lot easier to go up over her and finish strong.”
GW led 30-24 at the break, but Xavier captured the lead at the 12-minute mark of the second period. The Colonials then surged to grab the lead 49-48 with five minutes to play and the teams traded baskets for a minute, until GW senior Kim Beck attempted to draw a charge on the baseline but was whistled for a blocking foul, a call she was visibly displeased with. Xavier’s Tudy Reed made a basket on the foul and completed the three-point play to give the Musketeers the lead for good.
For the Colonials, the loss confirms what might be the one real blemish on the otherwise solid résumé of the GW senior class – the lack of an A-10 Championship. Winning the title this year had been the vocal goal of the team in recent days, but after the loss to Xavier, team leader Beck had little to say except that GW now must move on and look ahead to the NCAA Tournament.
The Colonials will learn their seed for the 64-team tournament March 17. Last season, GW fell in the semifinals of the A-10 tournament to Saint Joseph’s and was awarded a No. 5 seed.