The Georgetown Hoyas women’s basketball team (1-12, 1-12 Big East) suffered another heartbreaking defeat, this time to the Seton Hall Pirates (10-6, 8-5 Big East) in overtime on Thursday afternoon at Walsh Gymnasium by a score of 79-72. Once again, the Hoyas could not execute the defensive game plan in the clutch, and the Pirates displayed poise, holding serve at home and withstanding the Hoya runs. Sophomore guard Lauren Park-Lane poured in 32 points and graduate guard Andra Espinoza-Hunter added 26 points and a clutch three to tie the game at 64 with four seconds remaining in regulation. Sophomore forward Graceann Bennett led the visitors with 17 points and 8 rebounds, while sophomore forward Jillian Archer added 16 points and 7 rebounds. Freshman guard Kelsey Ransom flirted with a triple double, getting 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 10 assists.
“I think it’s youth still making youth mistakes, and that hurts, because we’re playing in a conference that’s one of the best in the country,” said Georgetown head coach James Howard. “We gotta grow up, we gotta become more disciplined down the stretch. It kills me to know that for three, three and a half quarters we played well, and then come fourth quarter, it’s like that inexperience takes over.”
Both teams started slowly from the field, missing inefficient midrange jumpers and committing turnovers. Park-Lane opened the scoring by grabbing a steal from Ransom and taking it herself in transition for an early three-point play. Bennett got open inside and converted the easy basket off the look-away pass from Ransom. Seton Hall then converted a couple quick threes to jump out to the early lead, with buckets from Park-Lane and Espinoza-Hunter. Save for Bennett, the Hoyas struggled in the halfcourt offense early, yielding several turnovers to the more veteran Pirates squad. This played right into their hands, as Seton Hall used the opportunities to run out in transition and force the Hoyas to commit early fouls. Espinoza-Hunter attacked downhill and made 7 free throws in the first quarter alone, and the Pirates opened up a 16-6 lead by the end of the period.
“We kept giving them lines to the basket. And when you’re in the heat of the moment, no matter what the coaches are telling you, and you don’t have that quick reaction, she’s gonna attack you all night, and that’s what she kept doing,” said Howard. “They kept getting to the rim with paint points and floaters, and we never made the adjustment.”
The second quarter started a little better for the Hoyas, with a quick two from freshman guard Yasmin Ott followed by a putback from junior center Shanniah Wright on an extended possession. Espinoza-Hunter came right back with another transition three, and she fed senior guard Desiree Elmore in transition for an easy bucket. Seton Hall continued to dictate the pace of the game, taking advantage of Hoya misses and playing fast to extend their lead. Though the Pirates did not play the cleanest offensive game with 10 first half turnovers, they shot well enough from three and got out on the fast break to generate easy buckets and trips to the free throw line. The key stat for the first half was that the Pirates outscored the Hoyas 10-0 in fast break points, and they forced the Hoyas to play at their preferred speed en route to a 31-23 advantage at the half.
“We were disciplined enough in the first to drop four back, and then all of a sudden, we stopped getting back,” said Howard. “You gotta do it when it’s a winning quarter, and that’s the fourth quarter. I think the last 6 or 7 games we’ve been in it, at least 6 out of the last 7. We just don’t know how to win coming down the stretch.”
The Hoyas came out of the break playing inspired, going on a 7-0 run by taking efficient shots. Archer converted a three from the corner, and she and Ransom both got inside as the Hoyas started to show some signs of life following a rough first-half performance. Georgetown rallied back and eventually pulled even in the third quarter off a corner three from Bennett. They did a much better job of shot selection and sharing the ball in the third quarter to get back into the game, while limiting their turnovers and giving Seton Hall a taste of its own transition medicine. They took the lead after Park-Lane threw the ball away and Ransom found a cutting Bennett in transition again. From there, it was nip and tuck the rest of the quarter, with Seton Hall coming away with a 47-46 lead going into the final quarter.
“I thought we moved the ball, Jillian Archer got going a little bit up in there, we made the extra pass, got some stuff to the rim,” said Howard. “It was a balanced quarter for us, probably the best scoring quarter we’ve played all year.”
The teams went back and forth to start the fourth, with sophomore guard Mya Bembry giving the Pirates a lift and the Hoyas going to Archer often. Neither team could pull away though, as the Hoyas struggled with unforced turnovers again while the Pirates had trouble shooting from the field. Both teams started to do a better job of attacking the basket, and the Hoyas pulled even by forcing the Pirates into shooting fouls. A cross-court pass from Ransom led to a pullup jumper from Ott, and the Hoyas took a 60-58 lead with 1:20 left to go. The Pirates attacked Baur and drew several fouls coming down the stretch. On the play where Baur fouled out, she did not make contact with Park-Lane, but the quick whistle was not in her favor. Though the Hoyas made their free throws, Espinoza-Hunter sunk a deep three to send the game to overtime tied at 64.
“When we were up three, we tried to tell them, ‘we get back, we get a defensive stop, no threes, switch on everything,’ and then we have a player, for whatever reason, decide to go for a steal. That’s not what we talked about,” said Howard of the late three. “It’s just those last 15, 17 seconds that defined the game.”
The Pirates opened overtime with a quick three from Park-Lane, and they would continue to lean on her when it came down to winning time. Once again, the Pirates poise would overcome the Hoyas relative inexperience, as the Hoyas committed several offensive fouls down the stretch while Seton Hall got clutch buckets from Park-Lane and Espinoza-Hunter in overtime, ultimately winning by the final of 79-72. Just as it was in the first matchup between these two teams, the seniors came through for the Pirates. Though he was unhappy about the execution, Howard was pleased with his team’s effort on the road against a desperate team on the tournament bubble following a sudden postponement.
“It just shows that these kids haven’t given up, that they haven’t looked at their record, they believe that we’re better than our record, and we’ve been playing that way,” said Howard. “With so much that we had to endure this season with COVID and kids opting out and then not being able to practice, I’m proud of them. I would love to see them win some games because of the hard work that they put in.”
The Hoyas will return home to McDonough Arena for a matchup against another tough Big East opponent in Villanova (12-3, 7-3 Big East) on Sunday, February 21. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:00 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.