The Georgetown Hoyas women’s basketball team (1-5, 1-5 Big East) fell to the shorthanded No. 3 Connecticut Huskies (10-0, 8-0 Big East) on Saturday afternoon at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion by a score of 72-41. The Huskies’ press defense and man-to-man coverage in the halfcourt overwhelmed the Hoyas, who committed 22 turnovers on the day. Junior forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa led all scorers with 19 points and 9 rebounds, and junior guard Christyn Williams added 17 points, 6 assists, and 4 steals for the Huskies. Freshman guard Kelsey Ransom led the Hoyas with 13 points and 4 assists, and freshman guard Yasmin Ott added 10 points of her own.
The first couple of possessions started nicely for the Hoyas, as they forced an early Huskies turnover and Ott connected on a three from the corner to open the scoring. However, their poise would not last long. They committed four turnovers in the first five minutes, and Connecticut took advantage to the tune of 7 points and a 12-2 run, keyed by 5 points for Nelson-Ododa. Throughout the first quarter, Connecticut was lethal in transition while displaying great patience and unselfishness in the halfcourt offense. All seven of their makes in the first quarter were assisted, with junior guard Evina Westbrook recording four assists. Their individual defense prevented the Hoyas from getting any quality looks at the basket and at times the Hoyas labored to even get the ball up the court thanks to the press.
“They’re quick, long, and athletic, and they take away a lot of the good looks so your guards are gonna have to be creators as well,” said Georgetown head coach James Howard. “Everyone knows you got to have skilled players on the wings that can score and handle the ball in order to be in a game with UConn.”
Georgetown’s struggles continued early in the second quarter, as they committed two turnovers due to Connecticut’s press. The Huskies were active and engaged on the offensive end for all of the first half, accumulating 9 offensive rebounds which translated into 12 second-chance points. The Hoyas tried to utilize a zone defense in the first half, but the Huskies’ crisp passing and hot shooting from the field overcame the Hoyas’ efforts. Williams led the way for the Huskies, with 11 points in the first half, and Connecticut dominated in nearly every major statistical category. Perhaps the most stark disparity was the 18-0 advantage the Huskies held in points off turnovers, which propelled them to a 39-11 lead at the break.
“The turnovers that we had were bad turnovers where they had numbers. They were already out and you’re at the rim. You can’t set your defense,” said Howard. “When we get turnovers, it’s not really in a bad place, and we don’t have the advantage or numbers to be able to get right to the rim and get something easy.”
The Hoyas came out competing to start the second half, making their first four baskets from the field including a rare three-pointer for sophomore forward Graceann Bennett. Unfortunately for them, they still had five turnovers and Connecticut kept humming offensively thanks to Nelson-Ododa’s efforts, who dominated inside with 11 points and 3 offensive rebounds in the third quarter alone. Despite a deficit that towered over 30 points, Georgetown remained competitive and played with heart against one of the nation’s premier programs.
“The biggest thing I’m looking for from this team is the ability to go out there every night and compete, no matter the score,” said Howard. “Those young guards and the post players just tried to keep fighting, and that’s the only thing you can do against such a powerhouse.”
The Huskies remained the aggressors at the start of the fourth quarter, forcing two early steals from the trap that led to fastbreak layups from Williams. Later in the period, though, the Hoyas went on a nice 8-0 run, keyed by five tough points from graduate forward Taylor Baur working inside the paint and a smooth three from Ott. Connecticut had a stretch longer than four minutes in the fourth quarter where they did not convert a field goal, and the Hoyas continued to play hard even with the game out of reach. Ransom hit a three in the last seconds of the game, but it was far too little, too late, as the Hoyas fell by the final score of 72-41.
Connecticut held the edge in several key categories over the course of the game, including offensive rebounds (16 to 14), second-chance points (21 to 8), and points off of turnovers (29 to 13). Their defense in the first half never let the Hoyas get going until the game was well out of reach. Though this has been a trying season for the Hoyas so far, they competed for forty minutes and forced 17 turnovers, which Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma said constantly disrupted the flow of their offense.
“Overall, it was like a horrendous basketball game to watch, it was very difficult to watch, the choppiness of it and the lack of flow,” said Auriemma. “Nothing seemed like it came easy.”
On playing such a storied program like Connecticut, Howard said, “When you’re living your dream, don’t look for autographs. Look to compete.”
“They played for 40 minutes. It’s not like they all of a sudden gave up and stopped playing,” said Auriemma. “They’re not winning, but I think they’re planning for the future.”
The Hoyas will look to win while planning for the future as they return home to face St. John’s (4-8, 1-6 Big East) on January 27. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcasted on the Big East Digital Network streaming on FloHoops. For continued coverage of women’s basketball and all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.