Lisa Steele, a reserve junior guard who was averaging just 1.8 points per game, hit the game-winner for GW as Auburn suffered a second straight two-point loss in the final tuneup prior to SEC player. The Tigers fall to 12-3 overall and GW improved to 11-3.
The Tigers, who entered the game ranked 18th, didn't have a good night shooting the basketball. The Tigers hit just 37.3 percent from the field. Normally a good foul shooting team, the Tigers made just 18-28 at the free throw line, a statistic that Coach Nell Fortner said cost the Tigers a victory.
"I thought we clamped down on them defensively and made some really big stops in the second half," Fortner says in describing how her team rallied from the 11-point deficit.
Auburn took the lead with 6:54 to play on a fastbreak basket by DeWanna Bonner, who was knocked out of action in the first half when she was undercut while making an off-balance layup. The junior was down on the floor for several minutes, but bounced back and played through what she said was a stiff back as she scored 14 points and pulled in 12 rebounds.
Bonner had a chance to stretch Auburn's lead to three points after a steal by Alli Smalley with 37 seconds left and the Tigers leading by a point. However, Bonner's runner in the lane wouldn't go down. The Colonials then got the rebound and set up the game-winning shot for Steele, who was uncovered on the play from the wing just behind the three-point line.
Smalley led all scorers with 17 points the point guard pulled down a carreer-high nine rebounds, added five assists and a steal in 37 minutes of court time. Sherrell Hobbs added 12 points for the Tigers.
"When we start Alli at point guard we play a little bit different style," Fortner said. "We will just have to get used to that. Right now, I think she took another step forward tonight, and I think she is doing a fine job at the point.
"We just got off to a little bit of a slow start and got behind in the game, and you just can't do that, especially, when you are at home," Fortner said. "You want to take advantage of the home court. We came back and got on track, and I thought we fought hard to win the game."
Alli Smalley shoots for the Tigers.
Sarah-Jo Lawrence led the Colonials with 18 points. George Washington shot 49.1 percent from the field and hit 7-15 threes while Auburn made 4-11 threes. GW was 9-11 at the foul line and was out-rebounded by the Tigers 41-31. AU had 13 turnovers, three less than the visitors.
George Washington controlled the tempo much of the first half. The Colonials lead by as many as nine points, but Auburn made a late run before intermission to cut the halftime lead to 33-30
Fortner's Tigers cut the lead to 33-32 to start the half, but the Colonials went to work extending their lead and quickly built it to double figures.
George Washington coach Joe McKeown said, "I was really proud of our team because the crowd got loud and to see the energy coming back into them every time they did. It just seemed like Sarah-Jo Lawrence made a big three. It just shows these guys are competitors. It's a great experience for us to go on the road like this and beat a Top 20 SEC team."
Next on the schedule for the Tigers is a 6 p.m. CST tipoff next Thursday at Tennessee.
The Tigers again played without starting point guard Whitney Boddie, who is academically suspended. Fortner said she should know in several days whether the junior will be back this season or have to wait until the 2008-2009 season to return to action.