No. 9 Colonials clinch Atlantic 10 bragging rights -- again

WASHINGTON -- George Washington completed an undefeated regular season in the Atlantic 10 on Sunday, but it wasn't easy.

Even though the Colonials won for the 18th straight time, 56-53 over Temple, they were far from satisfied. The visiting Owls outrebounded them 48-27, and if No. 9 George Washington is to have success in the conference tournament, which begins on March 2 in Cincinnati, and the NCAA Tournament, they'll have to improve.

"We have some weaknesses that we have to clean up," said coach Joe McKeown. "We played small a lot today, and that hurt us."

George Washington (25-2, 14-0 Atlantic 10) clinched its sixth straight Atlantic 10 regular season title. They earned a first-round conference tournament bye, and they'll play the winning of the LaSalle-Dayton game on March 3.

Temple (23-6, 13-1) had a nine-game winning streak broken, and according to coach Dawn Staley, it was a case of nerves.

"We said that the team that gets rid of the jitters the quickest would get out to a lead," Staley said.

The Owls turned the ball over 15 times in the first half and scored a season-low 22 points, and even though they had numerous second, third and fourth chances on the offensive boards, they missed many of them. They missed free throws, too, shooting just 47.4 percent (9-for-19) from the line.

"The game plan was executed to perfection. We just couldn't hit baskets. We just couldn't hit free throws. The free throws were glaring," Staley said.

"It was frustrating because they'd miss a free throw, and they'd get a rebound and score," McKeown said. "These were things that shouldn't happen."

The Colonials were led by Sarah Jo-Lawrence, who had 15 of her 19 points in the first half. They took the lead with 6:25 to play in the first half, but never led by more than seven. The Owls were able to tie the score when Fatima Maddox hit a 3-point shot with 3:11 to play.

Kenan Cole hit a jumper with 2:46 to play to give George Washington a 52-50 lead.

After Cole's basket, Jessica Adair converted on the second of two free throws for a 53-50 Colonials lead. Temple's Lady Comfort missed a jumper with 50 seconds to play, and Kimberly Beck hit a jumper and one of two free throws for a 55-50 lead.

Kamesha Hairston hit a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left. Beck missed the first foul shot in a penalty with 4.1 seconds left. Hairston's off-balance 3-point shot at the buzzer went awry, ending the game.

Maddox led Temple with 17 points. Hairston, the Atlantic 10's leading scorer, averaging 19.5 points, had 13.

"I didn't get many good looks. They always kept the defender there," Hairston said.

Lawrence was just three points off from her career high of 22, but was just 2-for-5 from the field in the second half.

"I think they did a good job defensively. They cut me off," Lawrence said.

Temple, which will be seeded second in the Atlantic 10 tourney, will play the winner of Massachusetts-St. Bonaventure on March 3. Last season, the Colonials defeated the Owls twice in the regular season, but Temple prevailed in the conference championship game-a scenario Staley would like to see repeated.

"Hopefully, we can meet somewhere down the line-within the next week or so," Staley said.

Temple is now 1-36 against Top 10 opponents.