In their previous five meetings against Tennessee, the best showing for George Washington had been a 14-point defeat in December 2003. Last night, the Colonials figured to have another tall task on their hands as they hosted the top-ranked Lady Vols in the fourth meeting between the teams in the last four years.
But as the game wore on, George Washington proved that it was more than up to the challenge. The Colonials gave Tennessee all it could handle through the first half, and trailed by seven points with just over 11 minutes remaining.
However, Tennessee's defense proved too much for George Washington to overcome. The Lady Vols held the Colonials scoreless for an 8-minute 37-second stretch of the second half, scoring 12 straight points and going on to win, 59-43, before 3,207 at Smith Center.
"We know that we can play with anyone in the country now, we just proved that," said guard Kimberly Beck, who had five points and led George Washington with a career-high nine assists.
"Going into the conference and the rest of our out-of-conference games, we can compete with everybody and we're looking for a win, we're not just looking to play people."
The Colonials (2-3), using an aggressive matchup zone, jumped to a quick 5-0 lead on a three-pointer from Beck and a steal and layup from guard Whitney Allen. GW pressured the Lady Vols (8-0) into 13 first-half turnovers. Tennessee didn't take its first lead until forward Sidney Spencer hit a straight-on three-pointer for a 15-14 advantage with 10:29 to play in the half -- the longest it has taken the Lady Vols to grab their first lead of any game so far this season -- and took a 34-29 lead into halftime.
A more determined Tennessee team emerged at halftime and by the midway point of the second half, their size and inside game wore down the Colonials. Freshman Candace Parker, who led the Lady Vols with 14 points, started to work the lane, showing off a variety of post moves. She was complemented on the perimeter by senior Shanna Zolman, who knocked down a pair of jumpers during the 12-0 run that opened up the game.
Defensively, Tennessee limited George Washington to just five field goals in the second half and 21-percent shooting. The Lady Vols outrebounded George Washington 39-27, including 15 offensive rebounds that led to an 18-2 advantage in second-chance points.
"George Washington came out with a lot of intensity against our defense," said Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt, who is just 10 wins shy of 900 for her career. "In the second half we obviously picked it up and the upside of what we can become as a team is obviously something I'm real excited about."
The 59 points allowed to Tennessee marks a season low for the Lady Vols and something that the Colonials can look at building on as the season progresses.
"They scored over 100 points against Texas so we worked on defense a lot," said guard Sarah-Jo Lawrence, who had 11 points off the bench for GW. "Whenever we lose to anybody, even if it is the number one team, we want to come out our next game strong."
Forward Jessica Simmonds had a strong game inside for George Washington, posting a team-high 13 points and seven rebounds.
* MARYLAND 88, MONMOUTH 55: Marissa Coleman had 22 points and nine rebounds to lead the No. 9 Terrapins in West Long Branch, N.J. Crystal Langhorne added 20 points for Maryland (7-1), while Shay Doron had 17 points and 10 assists despite missing nearly nine minutes in the second half because of foul trouble.
The teams traded baskets early before Monmouth (1-5) jumped to a 9-4 lead and kept the defensive pressure on Maryland. However, the Hawks had trouble hitting their shots while Langhorne -- who scored eight of the Terrapins' first 10 points and finished 9 of 12 from the field -- found her touch.
Maryland took control when Monmouth star Niamh Dwyer sprained her ankle while driving in the lane with just under 12 minutes left in the half.
Dwyer returned about five minutes later, but Maryland continued its surge and held a 38-27 halftime lead. The Terrapins pulled away in the second half, shooting 63 percent from the field and outscoring the Hawks 50-28.
* VIRGINIA TECH 58, RADFORD 52: Brittany Cook scored 12 points, Kirby Copeland 11 and Carrie Mason nine to lead the undefeated Hokies (7-0) at Radford.
Shavon Earp and Temeisha Carter each scored 14 for the Highlanders.
* VIRGINIA 59, SETON HALL 39: Brenna McGuire and Siedah Williams each scored 14 points to lead the Cavaliers (5-1) in South Orange, N.J. Heta Korpivaara scored 12 for the Pirates.