Back to Earth: Women’s basketball falls short in fourth quarter against DePaul

January 21, 2018

The Georgetown women’s basketball team (8-11, 3-6 Big East) faded late against the DePaul Blue Demons (15-6, 7-2 Big East), falling 78-62 Sunday afternoon at McDonough Arena. Senior forward Cynthia Petke led the way with 24 points and seven rebounds while junior guard Dionna White added 17 points for the Hoyas, who weathered an early shooting barrage from the Blue Demons, but ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. Junior forward Mart’e Grays scored 22 points on 8-14 shooting for the Blue Demons, who shot a blistering 15-31 from three-point range.

In a back-and-forth first quarter, both teams displayed strong offensive execution en route to a 27-20 score, with DePaul leading. The Blue Demons nailed their first five attempts from beyond the arc and seven of their first eight, knocking the Hoyas’ defense on its heels with crisp ball movement and quick-hitters. The Hoyas would adjust on defense, however, making a concerted effort to get out to the Blue Demons’ shooters, forcing a DePaul cold spell of 4-15 from three.

“We went back to our man defense and tried to communicate more, keep the ball in front,” Georgetown head coach James Howard said. “I thought we were better in that late in the first half, and that helped us get back in it. And then, the ball started to fall for us.”

Petke played a large part in getting the Hoyas back into the game, keeping her team in the contest in the first quarter with nine points, showcasing her entire offensive arsenal, including a pop-out three mid-way through the second period. Petke found success facing up and driving, as well as with her back to the basket, forcing double teams which opened up opportunities for her teammates to score.

“The girls did a great job finding me inside,” Petke said. “Coach told me before the game I had to be aggressive. I watched a lot of film and knew what had to do in the post, and knew they were going to try and double.”

After being down by as many as 11 early, the Hoyas clawed back to within four at the halftime break, trailing 39-35 heading into to the locker room. Staying true to their defensive identity, the Hoyas forced 10 turnovers in the first half by way of live ball mishaps, traveling violations, and three second violations. Howard noted that their defensive identity is not only a component of their success, but puts them in the best possible position to win games.

“Whenever we are defending, it helps us because we know we have a defensive mindset and we can score at probably 60,” Howard said. “That’s about it, on a given night. We need to keep playing defense, and I don’t think we did that late into the fourth.”

Although the Hoyas would falter in the fourth quarter, they showed no signs of going away in the penultimate period. On two separate occasions, Georgetown drew to within a point of DePaul, but either surrendered a made basket or could not convert on offense to finally take the lead. Missed free throws also plagued the Hoyas, as they finished just 9-16 on the game including crucial misses when they were within striking distance of the Blue Demons. Even so, Georgetown entered the fourth quarter trailing 53-51, well within reach of DePaul.

In the fourth quarter, the story would completely change. A back-and-forth affair through three quarters, the game would be decided by roughly the midway point of the fourth quarter, as the Blue Demons opened up a 70-56 lead with 4:38 remaining. After being relatively quiet for the previous two periods, the DePaul outside shooting came back to life with several back-breaking threes, including one with 6:49 remaining that re-established a double-digit lead. Meanwhile, the Hoyas struggled to string together good offensive possessions, missing from the outside and turning the ball over. The Blue Demons hit four three pointers in the period to erase any comeback hopes for the host Hoyas.

“In the fourth quarter, we lost a little bit of our focus, and that’s where the game was decided,” said Petke. “They hit two back-to-back three pointers and that’s where I think they got the lead and we couldn’t recover from there.”

The fast pace also may have played a role in wearing down the Hoyas late into the fourth quarter, but Howard took a more nuanced approach in analyzing where his team lost the game, and remained positive about his team’s effort in competing against DePaul’s juggernaut.

“I think the fast pace [wore us down] but also not having rotations at the guard slot wore us down,” Howard said. “They run a continuous motion with a lot of cuts, and they cut hard, and I think we were late getting over screens because you’re tired. When you’re tired and a split-second off, they make you pay. I think my team fought hard, but there were some things we could have done smarter.”

The Hoyas return to action on the road against Butler (13-8, 5-4 Big East) Friday in Indianapolis at 7:00 p.m. ET. Follow @GUVoiceSports for game day updates and breaking news.

Santul Nerkar
Santul is the Voice's former executive culture editor and Halftime Sports editor. Follow him on Twitter @SantulN to become one of his rare few followers.

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