Geo. Washington 71, Oklahoma 61
Much to the dismay of the majority of the 3,986 fans cheering for Oklahoma on its home floor at Lloyd Noble Center, George Washington Coach Joe McKeown has a couple of extra days to visit old friends. The Colonials took care of that with a 71-61 victory over the Sooners tonight in the first round of the NCAA women's Mideast Region.
Cathy Joens led the Colonials with 22 points, 14 in the second half.
McKeown was an assistant coach for the Oklahoma women's team from 1984 to 1986 and met his wife, Laura, who is from nearby Purcell, during his stint with the Sooners. The Colonials (25-6) will play Villanova here in the second round Tuesday night at 7:14 pm EST. Oklahoma, which lost to Connecticut in last year's NCAA final, finished 19-13.
"It was a great atmosphere," McKeown said. "Oklahoma fans made it a great home court for them and it was just a fun game."
The Colonials, who have won 21 of their last 22 games, outscored the Sooners 24-9 in the first 8 minutes 2 seconds of the second half to take charge. George Washington appeared to have more energy in the second after some sluggish play in the first half.
"Our kids in the second half, I thought, really got control of the game and I thought we played with a lot of poise in a very difficult environment, so I was really proud of them," said McKeown.
In the first half, George Washington had trouble working the ball inside to Ugo Oha with two Sooners around her virtually every time she touched the ball. Oha had 14 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks, but didn't pick up her first points until the 9:06 mark of the opening half when she connected for a basket from the lane.
Switching assignments defensively on Oha were Oklahoma's two post players, Theresa Schuknecht, a senior but playing in her first NCAA tournament game after transferring from Arizona State, and Beky Preston, a freshman who was pressed into the starting lineup in late January because of injuries.
In addition to her defensive work on Oha, Schuknecht demonstrated she could hit the outside jumper when she connected from 16 feet to give the Sooners an eight-point lead, 21-13, their biggest in the opening half.
Preston picked up her second foul with 2:45 left in the opening half. The Sooners had a 28-25 lead, and it was a chance with Preston sitting out the rest of the half for George Washington to make a run, but ill-advised shots and turnovers prevented that from happening. The Sooners maintained their three-point lead at the break, 32-29.
The Sooners were outrebounding the taller Colonials 24-12 at the break and the Colonials were without a single offensive rebound.
"At halftime, I wrote on the board 'OU, 23 rebounds [actually 24]' and us, 11.' I tried to tell my team to emphasize that. In order to win this game, we've got to get on the boards," Oha said. George Washington improved, and narrowed the rebounding gap to 39-29 at the end.
"I think that was one of the weak points in our game, our rebounding, but I know we're going to bounce back," Oha said.
Defensively, McKeown was searching for answers to stop Sooners guard Maria Villarroel, who scored 16 points in the first half. A more conscious defensive effort in the second half limited her to 10 points in a game-high 26-point effort.
Joens said adjustments to the Colonials' zone defense in the second half proved helpful.
"There's times that we focus sometimes on different players and, obviously, we didn't focus on [Villarroel] as much in the first half and we just needed to step it up in the second half," said Joens, the Atlantic 10 player of the year.
This year's outcome was different than in 2001, the Colonials' last NCAA trip to Norman. Like this year, George Washington was seeded seventh but was eliminated in the first round by Stanford.