As the Georgetown women’s basketball team entered Wednesday night’s matchup, they had achieved yet another feat of greatness for the first time in program history. The Hoyas were voted to the No. 15 and No. 17 spots in the ESPN/USA Today Poll and AP Poll, respectively. It was the first-ever time the Hoyas had cracked the Top 15.
Unfortunately, the Hoyas could not celebrate their highest ranking yet with a victory against the Marquette Golden Eagles as they fell 52-45, snapping their school record 16-game winning streak. The previous mark was 13 consecutive victories set by the 1979-1980 squad. It was Georgetown’s first loss in over two months since the Hoyas were defeated by Dayton on Nov. 20.
It was a very uncharacteristic game for the Hoyas, especially on offense. Georgetown committed 26 turnovers, including two late game-changers in an unusually low-scoring game. The Blue and Gray came into the game averaging over 72 points per game. Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, coaching her first ever nationally ranked team, cited the turnovers as the team’s fatal flaws.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Marquette, but it was just bad. . It was a bad offensive game [for us] – a lot of bad offensive turnovers,” Williams-Flournoy said.
Coupled with the turnovers was poor free-throw shooting. Going just 6-of-13 from the charity stripe, the Hoyas did not do themselves any favors. An additional factor was their inconsistent three-point shooting. After starting out 3-of-6 from behind the arc, the Hoyas shot just 2-of-11 down the stretch.
“It’s hard to say that we need to fix mistakes from last night, because last night we absolutely shot ourselves in the foot,” junior guard Monica McNutt said. “Those aren’t even mistakes to fix because those mistakes absolutely never should have happened. It was just one of those nights for us.”
cNutt finished with a team-high five rebounds, adding two assists, three steals and seven points. McNutt said she did not think playing away at Marquette had anything to do with the Hoyas’ poor performance.
It was a back-and-forth game from start to finish. No team led by more than a few points until the six-minute mark of the second half, when Georgetown was able to take a seven-point lead, led by freshman guard Ta’Shauna “Sugar” Rodgers, who finished with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting to lead both teams. At one point in the second half, Rodgers had scored 21 of her team’s 35 points.
The Hoyas’ defense was spectacular as usual, forcing 30 Marquette turnovers on 15 steals. The Blue and Gray allowed the Golden Eagles just 35 shot attempts in 40 minutes of play. That defense kept Marquette’s point total low, but Georgetown’s turnovers also kept their own scoring in check.
“We have to go back and look at the tape and see exactly what happened and why we turned the ball over so many times and not let it happen again,” Williams-Flournoy said.
The final blow came with just a minute left to play in regulation. Trailing 45-43, Rodgers was called for traveling, and a subsequent foul led to a 46-43 deficit. Sophomore forward Latia Magee was called for traveling after a rebound off a Golden Eagles miss, and two more Marquette points made it a five-point game. Marquette outlasted the Hoyas in the final seconds to claim victory.
“We forced 30 turnovers on defense, but it was only a four-turnover margin,” said McNutt. “We can’t commit 26 turnovers.”
“Even if you take those two away, you still have 24 [turnovers],” Williams-Flournoy said.
The good news is that the loss will not hurt the Hoyas too severely, but it certainly does not help them
as they enter a crucial game against Rutgers on Saturday. As January winds to a close, the thick of the Big East race begins. Standing at 6-1 in the conference standings, Georgetown shares second place with West Virginia, trailing undefeated UConn by just one game.
Right behind the Hoyas are Notre Dame, St. John’s and Rutgers, in that order. The Blue and Gray will suit up against all three teams in their next four games. The fourth of those matchups will come at Pittsburgh, a team that also reached No. 15 in the rankings earlier this season.
“We’d rather [the loss] happen now so that we can tighten up and understand that we always have to be locked in on the other team,” McNutt said. “We always have to be extremely focused, and we can’t afford to have nights like [Wednesday night], because we’re going into a tough stretch – Rutgers, Pittsburgh, we’ve never beaten those teams, and we have to beat those teams if we want to be part of the upper echelon of the Big East.”
Georgetown becomes the seventh ranked team Rutgers will face this season. The Scarlet Knights are 1-5 thus far against their previous ranked opponents, three of whom currently reside in the top five in the nation (No. 1 UConn, No. 2 Stanford and No. 5 Tennessee).
With key victories already over Syracuse and DePaul, Georgetown has gone from emerging threat to marked target. Rutgers has flirted with entering the national standings all year, and the Scarlet Knights employ a low-tempo style of play, averaging just 58 points per game while allowing 56 per game on average.
“It’s another Big East team. It’s Rutgers,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We know how good they are, and we’re going to have to be able to handle the pressure.”
It is do-or-die time for the Hoyas, who have surprised the nation with their trapping defense and two-month-long win streak. But all of that success will be put to the test on Saturday and in the coming month of February, which will decide Georgetown’s NCAA tournament fate.”