Can Boise State Play With George Washington?

It will take a supreme effort if Boise State is to shock #13 George Washington this afternoon in the opening round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. The Colonials enter today's game with a record of 26-3 and are the 5th seed in the Dallas Regional.

The Boise State women's basketball team challenges #13 George Washington this afternoon in the opening round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in Los Angeles.  The Colonials are enjoying their best season since 1977, when they were 28-6 and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the Tournament as the #5 seed.  George Washington enters this year's Tournament as the number five seed as well, with Boise State pegged as #13 in the Dallas Regional. 

The Colonials swept through the Atlantic-10 Conference with a perfect 14-0 mark until they lost in the conference tournament semifinals to Saint Joseph 57-55 earlier this month.  The loss snapped a 19-game win streak for George Washington, which received an at-large entry into the Big Dance with a sparkling 26-3 record. 

Coach Gordy Presnell's Broncos will be facing one of the top teams in the nation the last five years, as George Washington has made it to the NCAA's each of those years.  They are 11-2 in first-round games and 14-13 in 27 tournament games.  GW returned four starters from last year's 23-9 team that won the conference title and advanced to the second round of the Tournament. 

Joe McKeown is in his 18th season as the head coach of George Washington, with a 412-146 record.  His Colonials can beat you several ways.  They average 67.5 points per game and are shooting 37.1 percent from three-point range.  They feature an attacking defense that gives up a miniscule 55 points per game.  This pressure defense is further evidenced by a cold 35% shooting from the floor by George Washington opponents.  The Colonials take care of the ball and attack the glass.

Presnell knows that his team cannot concentrate on any one player for the Colonials.  It's a well-rounded attack with four players averaging in double figures:  Jessica Adair and Sarah-Jo Lawrence (13.1 points per game each), Kimberly Beck (11.2 ppg) and Kenan Cole (10.9).  Adair also tops the team in rebounds, pulling down 7.4 per game with Whitney Allen grabbing another 6.1 per contest.

Boise State also features a talented and deep squad led by sophomore shooting guard Jessica Thompson (14.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game).  Thompson (5-9) is still regaining strength from a three-week long illness, the effects of which were still evident in the Western Athletic Conference championship against New Mexico State.  Thompson managed just two-of-ten shooting in that game, which was the third game in four days for the Broncos.  She is a multi-talented player for Presnell that makes the Broncos go.  Thompson hits 77 percent of her free throws, has 54 assists and plays phenomenal defense as her 63 steals attest to. 


Senior center Michelle Hessing joined Thompson on the All-WAC team after a senior campaign that saw her hit for 11.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest.  Hessing became the 12th Bronco to hit 1,000 career points when she hit a short jumper in the WAC Tournament against Fresno State.  Defenses have been collapsing on Hessing lately, forcing the Broncos to look outside to Tasha Harris (10.6 points), Nadia Begay (7.7) and Jackie Lee (7.3 points a game).  Harris (5-7, sophomore) was phenomenal in the WAC Championship, forcing turnovers and penetrating the Aggie defense for points, fouls and easy assists to earn a spot on the WAC tournament team.  The Broncos' floor general will have to have an encore performance this afternoon if the Broncos are to win.


Begay has become one of the most prolific three-point shooters in Bronco history, firing off 182 of them this season alone.  She's made 53 for a 29.1 shooting percentage from behind the arc.  Thompson is the team's best long-range shooter with a 34.1 percentage, with Lee (36-112) hitting at 32.1 percent.


Rebecca Kepilino has earned the reputation as a "super sub", not starting in any of the team's 32 games but ranking fourth on the team in minutes played.  Make no mistake—Kepilino is an essential part of the Broncos' game, both offensively and defensively.  She averages 7.7 points a game and leads Boise State with 6.1 rebounds per game.  She has blocked 26 shots, second only to Hessing's 36.  She also has 37 steals this season.  Jackie Thompson missed nine games with a leg injury and she too is still recuperating.  She averages 4.1 points for the Broncos.   


Jenna Galassi will also get considerable playing time off the bench.  She's averaging 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds a game.  Marsing's Amanda Stewart has been especially effective of late in filling in for Hessing, when Michelle has gotten into foul trouble.  She's averaging 2.7 points and three rebounds a game, but has stepped up her play considerably in post-season.  Stewart played the best game of her career against New Mexico State, and was one of the only players not rattled by the 5,000-plus crowd in Las Cruces.  At a time when the Broncos were shooting just 17 percent as a team in the first half, Stewart was the one who wanted the ball and kept the team in the game until they could find their groove.


The Broncos head into this afternoon's clash with a school record 24 wins against eight defeats.  They are averaging 69 points per game while holding opponents to 60.5.  Their 69 points per game this year ranks fourth in the Bronco record book.  Presnell's team also set a school record for rebounds in a season with 1,298.  Boise State averages 39.8% from the floor and allows 38.4 % shooting by Bronco opponents.


Boise State is coached by Gordy Presnell, who led the team to not only its first regular season WAC title but the conference championship as well.  Presnell is in his second season at Boise State, catapulting the team from also-ran to conference champion.  Presnell was honored as not only the WAC Coach of the Year but also the 2007 Russell Athletic/Women's Basketball Coaches Association Region 7 Coach of the Year.  In his prestigious 20-year career, Presnell has been named a conference coach of the year eight times, WBCA regional coach of the year five times and National Coach of the year twice.


Presnell, a 1983 graduate of Nampa's Northwest Nazarene, Presnell presided over one of the top Division II teams in the nation at Seattle Pacific.  Presnell's teams were 396-127 (75.7%), averaging 22 wins per season and capturing six conference championships.  Prior to coming to Boise State, Seattle Pacific had two consecutive 30-win seasons, playing for the Division II national championship in 2005. 


The Broncos have yet to win a national tournament game, losing two games in the '74-75 season in junior college, falling to Washington 89-61 in the NCAA Tournament in 1993-94 and losing to LSU in the 1998 National Invitation Tournament 58-38.


Bronco fans can watch this afternoon's game on ESPNU beginning at approximately 2:30.  The main network at ESPN likely will show parts of the game during it's "whip-around coverage", where they alternate between NCAA games in progress. The game will also be broadcast on KBSU AM 730. 


The 2007 Boise State Lady Broncos:

#12—Point Guard Tasha Harris (5-7 sophomore from Longmont, Colorado)

#15—Shooting Guard Jessica Thompson (5-9 sophomore from Temecula, California)

#2—Shooting Forward Jackie Lee (5-9 junior from Avondale, Arizona)

#55—Power Forward Jackie Thompson (5-11 senior from Alamogordo, New Mexico)

#44—Center Michelle Hessing (6-2 senior from Boise's Capital High School)

#20—Forward/Guard Jenna Galassi (5-10 sophomore from Yorba Linda, California)

#24—Guard Bridgette Reyes (5-6 freshman from Irvine, California)

#32—Guard Nadia Begay (5-9 senior from Kirtland, New Mexico)

#42—Center Ja'Lara Walker (6-4 freshman from Merced, California)

#43—Center Amanda Stewart (6-2 junior from Marsing, Idaho)

#50—Forward Rebecca Kepilino (6-0 sophomore from Costa Mesa, California)



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