OU women open against George Washington

Sunday, March 16th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The Oklahoma women's basketball team was made the No. 10 seed in the NCAA Mideast Regional and will play George Washington in the first round.

The Sooners, who reached the Final Four a year ago, will play No. 7 seed George Washington (24-6) on March 23 in Norman.

The other first-round game in Norman has No. 2 seed Villanova playing 15th-seeded St. Francis, Pa.

Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said she likes the way the bracket unfolded.

``I just think that probably for our youth and our inexperience, the potential No. 2 seeds they could have sent here _ with all due respect to Villanova, they're an excellent team _ there are worse matchups for us physically than Villanova,'' she said.

``But we've got to get past George Washington first. We're not taking anything for granted. We've got to play very well to beat anybody.''

This has been a rebounding year for Coale, who had to replace four starters from last year and then lost three players with knee injuries during the course of the season.

The Sooners are 19-12 after losing in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament. They were awarded the NCAA regional before the season.

``Dionnah Jackson is the only player who plays substantial minutes at all who was on the floor in the tournament last year,'' Coale said. ``We've got to concentrate on day one. We've got to concentrate on George Washington.''

George Washington won the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament, beating Rhode Island 56-49. The Colonials (24-6) have a strong post player in Ugo Oha, who scored a career-high 26 in the conference tournament title game.

George Washington, in the NCAA tournament for the 10th time in 13 years, has won nine straight games and 20 of 21.

Villanova (25-5) is the champion of the Big East. The Wildcats won the conference tournament by beating Connecticut and ending the Huskies' 70-game winning streak.

``The thing is it makes them a lot more confident and they realize if they play extremely well on a given day, they can beat anybody,'' Villanova coach Harry Perretta said on ESPN's selection show. ``I think that game really instilled that in us.''

Villanova came to Norman a year ago, losing to the top-seeded Sooners 66-53 in the second round.

``Getting a 2 seed was great, but going out to Oklahoma is going to be really tough,'' Perretta said. ``If we beat them (St. Francis), George Washington is a good team. And it scares me if we're going to have to play Oklahoma out there, with 12,000 people screaming at us.''

Villanova has not advanced past the second round in its previous six NCAA tournament appearances.