Led by defense, Women’s Basketball is ready for a resurgence

November 4, 2022

There were several positive takeaways from the 2021-22 season despite the final record of 10-19 Design by Lou Jacquin

March 5, 2022, was an exciting day for Georgetown students: the first day of spring break, an oasis within a grueling semester. If you had checked the score of Georgetown Women’s Basketball’s BIG EAST tournament game against UConn that day, you would have thought the scorekeepers had gone on break too. But no, at halftime the score really was 43-9. After a second half that was purely an exhibition, Georgetown’s season came to an end with an 84-38 loss, the Hoyas’ tenth year in a row without an NCAA Tournament appearance. 

Since former head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy bolted for Auburn after a 23-9 season in 2013, Georgetown has gone through four different coaches. Nine schools have left the BIG EAST in that timespan, two have joined, and UConn has done both. 

Despite the blistering end, there were several positive takeaways from last year’s squad despite the final record of 10-19 (4-15 BIG EAST). Prior to the UConn matchup, the Hoyas finished the season by winning their final three BIG EAST games. Additionally, Georgetown’s final record might have been artificially deflated, as the Hoyas were injury-plagued all season. Star junior guard Kelsey Ransom was banged up for much of conference play, eventually missing the aforementioned season-ending loss versus UConn. On top of that, the Hoyas dealt with four COVID-19-related game postponements, more than the conference average, which interrupted the game-to-game flow. 

“We would have a run and we would start to do well, and then COVID hits us. Trying to come off that, our chemistry is messed up, and in this conference, you can’t lose chemistry, you can’t lose time,” Head Coach James Howard said.

Some games were also down to the wire: Six of the Hoyas’ 19 losses were by single digits, and four came in overtime. Often, these losses came as a result of scoring droughts. Georgetown’s 59.3 points per game in conference play ranked ninth in the 11-team BIG EAST, and their 37.2 percent field goal percentage and 26.9 percent 3-point percentage each ranked last. Just small increases in these categories could have flipped these close results and changed the season’s trajectory. 

Increasing those numbers may be difficult given the departures of leading scorer Milan Bolden-Morris and leading rebounder Jillian Archer. To fill these and other departures, though, the Hoyas brought in two transfers and four freshmen. Senior forward Jada Claude is the most notable. The 6’0” Georgia native is a two-time transfer, previously leaving Duke for Morehead State, likely in search of more playing time. She found it with the Eagles, starting in all 27 games and averaging 13.7 ppg and 7.1 rpg. Moving back up to the power six level will be a challenge, but Claude appears to be up for the task.

The other transfer, 6’1” graduate guard Kristina Moore, is a bit of a question mark. After three seasons as a full-time starter at Florida, Moore largely rode the bench last year, and the Australia native subsequently decided to use her COVID-19 year up north. Moore averaged five points and three rebounds per game over her four years as a Gator.

 As for the freshmen, 5’7” guard Kennedy Fauntleroy is the big name. Her top-75 ESPN ranking nationally makes her an unusually strong get for the Hoyas, and the former MaxPreps Maryland Player of the Year could make an immediate difference as a strong passer and shot-creator in the mid-range. 

A hopefully healthy Ransom leads the returnees. The emotional heart of the Hoya offense, Ransom’s game largely focuses on driving to the basket and finding open teammates. Turnovers were a bit of an issue for her last year, but if she cuts back on that, Ransom could be one of the BIG EAST’s top distributors.

The other returning starter is senior forward Graceann Bennett (7.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg), who will be a key force on the boards for the Hoyas. The rest of the rotation is up in the air. Junior guard Yasmin Ott, sophomore forward Brianna Scott, and sophomore center Ariel Jenkins will all battle for starting spots. 

The key to the Hoyas’ success this year will be finding someone that can create open looks on the perimeter. Bolden-Morris was that person last year, but it’s not clear at this point if anyone will replace her role. Ransom is certainly a shot creator but has historically floundered behind the arc, knocking down just 20.8 percent of her 3-point attempts last year. 

Coach Howard floated freshmen guards Victoria Rivera and Modesti McConnell as two new pieces that could earn playing time thanks to their shooting. “We’ve got some young shooters that I’m really excited about that I don’t believe in the past we’ve had,” he said.

The Hoyas kick off the 2022-23 campaign on Monday, Nov. 7, against Division 2 squad Salem, and the rest of the non-conference slate is hardly intimidating. The Hoyas face just one team ranked in the top 90 of the Massey Composite—a computer-generated ranking system for women’s college basketball—and none in the top 50. The relatively weak non-conference schedule should give Coach Howard time to figure out the roster before jumping into BIG EAST play with Marquette on Dec. 2. 

McDonough Arena will surely be packed when UConn comes to town on Feb. 11.  That is, if the game is played at McDonough. Howard mentioned the possibility of moving the game from McDonough, which seats about 2,000, to the WNBA’s Washington Mystics’ Entertainment and Sports Arena, which can hold 4,200 attendees. The Hoyas were supposed to play the Huskies there last season before the game was postponed due to COVID. Although, as Howard told me, “If you want to change the record, you’ve got to play everyone like it’s UConn.”

Turnovers—17.9 per game on average—and poor shooting were thorns in Georgetown’s side last season. Fix those issues and this team has the defensive chops to shake up the BIG EAST standings—but that is easier said than done. With a healthy Ransom and a trio of newcomers that have the potential to play meaningful minutes on day one, the upside is there. The question is, can the Hoyas deliver?


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