Cathy Joens takes a somewhat detached attitude about shooting, maintaining that some nights the ball will go in, and some nights it will not. The rest of the George Washington guard's game is anything but cavalier, full of well-timed elbows and charge-drawing pratfalls.

"Sometimes, in practice, she'll let an elbow slip," said Lindsey Davidson, GW's senior point guard and Joens's teammate since an eighth-grade AAU squad. "That comes with the territory, her being such a competitive player. But it lets me know I'm glad I'm on her team."

Joens's three-point shooting and toughness are major reasons why the Colonials (17-6, 11-1) have won 13 of 14 games and have all but clinched the top seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament heading into Thursday's home game with Dayton. Joens is averaging a team-high 16.7 points, fourth in the league, and surpassed 1,000 career points against Dayton on Feb. 7.

George Washington Coach Joe McKeown said that Joens's follow-up effort from a first-team all-Atlantic 10 season a year ago, which came after missing all of the 2000-01 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, has seen her become a far more disciplined player.

"I'm a little more careful with what I do," said Joens, a redshirt junior who said she plans to return after graduation in May. "If I see a bunch of people dive for a loose ball, I'll try to box someone out. I'm not going to wade in anymore."

A 5-foot-11 guard, Joens played more of a power game in the past, according to McKeown. This season, the play of junior center Ugo Oha has allowed Joens's perimeter game to blossom.

George Washington assumes few teams will guard the 6-4 Oha with just one defender. When opponents bring the second player to defend Oha, it often leaves Joens, a 40-percent outside shooter, just one defender to shed on a screen or it leaves an open lane for Davidson or Marsheik Witherspoon, the team's point guards, to get to the basket.

Much of that is predicated on Joens's outside shooting, and during a 13-for-47 slump in December and early January, the Colonials struggled, losing four straight games for the first time under McKeown. But Joens broke out after scoring a career-high 35 points against Fordham on Jan. 16, averaging 19.2 points over the past six games.

"All great players have this mentality, that if you miss one, you might make the next 17 in a row, so why not take the next shot?" McKeown said. "She has this mental ability to adjust her mechanics in the middle of a game, to recognize what she's doing wrong and correct it. You won't find too many of those out there."

McKeown could only cite one other player with a similar mindset during his tenure with the Colonials, Jennifer Shasky, an all-Atlantic 10 guard in the early 1990s. Joens, a pre-med major who intends to pursue a master's degree in genomics and bioinformatics before going to medical school, credits her upbringing for her focus. She is the second oldest of eight siblings, ranging from 5 years old to 22, including an older sister and younger brother also enrolled at George Washington.

"There's always a lot of people running around, someone needing a ride, someone's game to go to," Joens said. "Growing up in a huge family, so many things can go wrong every day, you have to stay focused."