George Washington 56,
Rhode Island 49
George Washington center Ugo Oha dominated nearly every aspect of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament final, carrying the Colonials to a 56-49 victory over Rhode Island yesterday before 1,382 at Smith Center.
Behind Oha's strong play, GW won its first Atlantic 10 tournament championship in seven years and its fourth overall. More importantly, the Colonials (24-6) earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
"This is the icing on the cake," said Oha, who appropriately enough, was the first to cut down the nets. "I just feel like we worked too hard to lose."
Oha, who finished with career highs in points (26) and blocks (eight) and earned the most outstanding player award, was spectacular on both ends of the court. Rhode Island (16-15) had no one who could stop her underneath, and the Rams struggled to shoot over her.
"She's got great size," said Rhode Island Coach Boe Pearman, a former Maryland player and assistant coach. "We didn't have the size to go against her."
Oha's most impressive play came late in the second half. Rhode Island's Denise King drove along the baseline and tried to shoot over the 6-foot-4 Oha. Instead, she had her shot swatted back in her face -- literally. The ball bounced off her head as she went to the floor.
"That block came from the soul," Oha said.
King, a junior guard from Catonsville, didn't get that shot off, but she got plenty of others. She almost single-handedly kept the Rams in the game, making her first seven shots and not missing until 15 minutes 40 seconds remained.
King, who averaged 20.3 points in three tournament games, scored the Rams' first 11 points of the second half and finished with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Her efforts earned her a spot on the all-tournament team.
This was a much different game from the last time these teams met, a 90-38 GW victory on Feb. 2. Rhode Island, which was making only its second appearance in the final, kept the game close by disrupting the Colonials' offense. GW, which ranks eighth in Division I in field goal percentage (48 percent), shot just 35.4 percent yesterday.
"They pushed our offense out," senior guard Cathy Joens said. "We weren't running our offense well."
If Oha's 9-of-16 shooting is subtracted, the team made only 25 percent of its field goal attempts. The Colonials went more than nine minutes in the second half without making a field goal. No player other than Oha scored in double figures.
"They were aggressive," said GW's Anna Montanana, who scored nine points and was selected to the all-tournament team. "They were everywhere on defense. They defended really well."
Joens, the Atlantic 10 player of the year, was not much of a factor in this game. She did not make a basket in the second half and finished with eight points on 2-of-7 shooting.
Joens usually is GW's most potent outside threat, but she didn't get many opportunities against the Rams' stifling defense. She made 1 of 3 three-point attempts. The Colonials, who had attempted 27 three-pointers in their last two games, took only five shots from beyond the arc and made just one.
"They put a shield on [Joens]," GW Coach Joe McKeown said. "They wouldn't let her go anywhere. I was disappointed we didn't screen better for her."
GW was particularly motivated to win the Atlantic 10 tournament this year after losing in the quarterfinals last year. That loss kept them out of the NCAA tournament. Yesterday's win may improve the team's seeding when the brackets are announced on Sunday.