Tuesday, December 2
It isn’t March, but the GW women’s basketball team looked like Cinderella Tuesday night.
The Colonials showed up prepared to dance with a powerhouse squad that plays above the level they’re used to seeing, and as the night wore on, GW hit some magic shots to stay in it.
But as is the case with most Cinderellas, their magical night gave way to a pumpkin. A big, bright orange, basketball-playing pumpkin.
GW fell to Tennessee 71-59 at the Smith Center in a game that was much tighter than the final score indicates. The No. 7/9 Lady Vols (AP, ESPN/USA Today) shot just 35 percent from the floor and a no-fear GW squad made crucial baskets in the second half to stay close to the Lady Vols until the final end.
After back-to-back losses in Kentucky two weeks ago and a pair of squeaky wins over Thanksgiving, the Colonials could have entered battle with Tennessee already assuming their perennial powerhouse opponent would wipe the floor with them. But that’s not how it went down, GW head coach Mike Bozeman said.
“We came into the Tennessee game not wishing that we can win. We came into the game really believing that there was an opportunity to pull what would be a big upset,” he said.
There were plenty of times throughout Tuesday’s match-up where it looked like a couple quick baskets from the Lady Vols were finally going to break the game open in their favor. Tennessee was up by 13 after a streak of missed Colonial shots midway through the second half, for instance. But a pair of smooth layups from freshman Tiana Myers reignited GW, and the Colonials kept chiseling away at Tennessee’s lead.
The Lady Vols continued to get the slight upper hand, though, turning a 6-0 GW run into two quick baskets of their own and again seemed in control. But shots that seemed like they couldn’t possibly go in — a sky-high floater from Myers and a line drive attempt from sophomore Erica Rivera — fell through the net, telling GW that something was on their side.
“Those were makeup shots for some of the ones that went in and out,” Bozeman said. “I thought something had to start working for us.”
What ultimately did GW in, however, was an advantage the Lady Vols had over the Colonials all game. Though GW continued to defend Tennessee’s first shots well, they were unable to handle the Lady Vols size all game and surrendered 25 offensive rebounds, including 5 boards in the final four minutes that allowed Tennessee to pull away.
Even with low-scoring performances from Antelia Parrish and Jessica Adair, the Colonials can take solace in the big performances that came from its younger players. Myers had cool nerves at the free-throw line and four big three-pointers from freshman Tara Booker kept the score tight and the fans involved all evening — and their performances showed that GW packs a punch even with its bug guns lagging, Parrish said.
“We have confidence in each other that anyone can step up on any given night,” she said.
Tennessee coach Pat Summitt – widely regarded as one of the all-time great college basketball coaches – said she thought the young GW stepped up to its challenge Tuesday.
“I think they played really, really hard,” she said. “From the film I saw, I think they dialed it up a little bit.”