All good things must come to an end. For the women’s basketball team, their unforgettable season came to a close Monday night in Berkley, Calif. in the second round of the NCAA tournament against fourth-seeded Baylor. The Lady Bears defense proved too much for the fifth-seeded Hoyas, who suffered a 49-33 defeat.
Although it’s never fun to step off the court for the last time of the season, the team has a lot to be proud of this past year. They added another accolade to a long list of accomplishments two days before the loss by winning the school’s first NCAA tournament game in 17 years against Marist.
“It feels great, and even better for the student-athletes,” head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “You can talk about going to the NCAA tournament, but you really have to be in it to experience it.”
At first it seemed like the Hoyas’ 17-year absence from the tournament might have affected them early on, as they only shot 34 percent from the field in their first round game, going into the half up by only two. They knew they would have to play better if they wanted to advance, especially against a team like Marist, which was in the NCAA tournament for the seventh consecutive year. Junior guard Monica McNutt’s foul trouble didn’t help the struggling Hoyas, since she was limited to nine minutes in the first half. However, Georgetown came out of halftime on fire and looked like a team that knew they were playing for their lives in the one-and-done format. Two straight three-pointers by McNutt sparked a 13-0 run that gave the squad a comfortable lead for the rest of the game.
“I told them at halftime that if you don’t come out in the first five minutes of this half and knock Marist off their feet that we were going to allow them to stay in the game,” Williams-Flournoy said. “A team like Marist, you can’t let them stay in the game and keep them close because they are a very good team.”
The Hoyas followed the half-time plan brilliantly and left their pre-game jitters in the locker room as they loosened up and played like the team that had won 16 games in a row earlier in the season. After taking care of business in the opening round, Georgetown knew that they had a lot of work ahead of them with the Baylor Lady Bears and their freshman center Brittney Griner.
To be successful, it was vital that the Hoyas find a way around Griner and get open shots from the outside. As the number one incoming recruit in the country, the 6-foot-7-inch Griner averaged an astonishing six-plus blocks per game and led her team with 18.4 points per game. The key to the matchup was to shoot well because with Griner in the paint there would be few opportunities to score inside.
Unfortunately for Georgetown, their shots didn’t fall, the team shot a paltry 17.1 percent from the field and only managed to put 33 points on the board.
The poor shooting began in the first half when the team went scoreless until Sugar Rodgers made a layup with 12:23 left. Although Griner got into foul trouble and was forced to sit for most of the rest of the half, Georgetown couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
“I think with [Griner] out of the game we wanted to get back in the game,” Williams-Flournoy said. “But the shots just didn’t fall. You can’t make them go in.”
The second half didn’t prove much better for Georgetown. With Griner back in the game and other players stepping up for Baylor, the first half deficit was too big of a hole to dig themselves out of, and the season came to an end.
“I think they continued to play hard the whole game. They never gave up at all. It would be a whole different ball game if we had made shots,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We forced them into 21 turnovers and we held Griner as best as we could.”
While Monday was not the Hoyas’ best, the team has put together arguably the greatest season in the program’s history and laid a foundation for years to come. They learned how to win consistently in the regular season and survive in the postseason. Although the team will lose two starters with the graduation of Jaleesa Butler and Shanice Fuller, the young talent is maturing and ready to thrive in the Big East.