On Tuesday night, the Georgetown women’s basketball team attained its 500th victory in program history. The Hoyas were riding high on a 13-game winning streak and had attained their highest national ranking in school history. Georgetown was on cloud nine.
But in the Big East, the winds can change rapidly, and while the weather remains cold outside, emotions can always flare inside.
On Saturday, the No. 18 Hoyas (15-2, 4-0 Big East) defeated the Louisville Cardinals (10-7, 2-2 Big East) 60-56 in an all-out physical match between the two schools and set a school record with their 14th-consecutive win. It was Georgetown’s first ever victory over Louisville. The Cardinals joined the Big East in 2005 and were last year’s national runners-up, losing to UConn in the national championship game.
Georgetown has already had its share of high-drama games, having notched last-minute victories over Wake Forest and Syracuse this season. But this game provided even more. During the pregame warm-ups, what was described as a skirmish broke out between the two teams, which were then separated by their respective coaching staffs.
“You know, emotions were high, both teams are competitive . but we promote good sportsmanship,” Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said after the game. “And we will continue to promote good sportsmanship. We still have to discuss what happened and we will take care of [the situation]. I don’t know exactly what happened.\”
Georgetown’s head coach was doing an interview with ESPN when the fight occurred.
The skirmish was captured on film by ESPN camera crews, and both coaches promised to take a look at the film before they could comment further on what had happened. When asked who was at fault for starting the fight between the two teams, Williams-Flournoy said she had no idea.
“I’ve heard that it’s on film and I’m looking forward to seeing it, but right now it’s not fair to comment,” Louisville Head Coack Jeff Walz said at the press conference. When asked if the officials had warned either him or his players, Walz responded, “Not that I know of.”
Despite the pregame fireworks, the first half started out very slowly. In the first four and a half minutes, both teams combined to shoot 3-of-12 from the field, including an 0-for-5 mark from three-point range. It was a sign of things to come, as Georgetown would embark on a terrible shooting game, hindered mostly by freshman sensation Ta’Shauna “Sugar” Rodgers, who has been the Hoyas leading scorer with 19 points per game overall and has averaged 21.3 points in conference play, the best in the Big East. Rodgers shot 6-of-20 from the field, including an 0-of-5 performance from three-point land and a 1-of-3 mark from the charity stripe. Most of Rodgers’ team-leading 13 points came from great passes on the perimeter to a wide-open Rodgers underneath the basket.
“For Sugar, it was just one of those days. She’s a shooter and for shooters, sometimes [shots] fall, sometimes they don’t,” Williams-Flournoy said. “It is true that when Sugar struggles on offense, that is a factor for us as a whole. But we did miss some easy shots – we missed a lot of easy shots.”
Whether it was frustration with her shooting or a spillover from the clash, Rodgers and another Louisville player both wrestled for a loose ball in the second half. When the Louisville player ripped the ball out of Rodgers’ hand, committing a foul, Rodgers froze and glared at the player before her teammates calmed her down.
It was an extremely physical game for both teams. There were a combined 52 fouls in total, and the Hoyas committed 12 fouls by the end of the first half after committing just 11 for the entire game against Providence. Yet it was Louisville’s fouls that were more significant, as the Hoyas were already in the bonus shooting one-and-ones by the 12-minute mark of the first half.
“It was a big factor today,” sophomore forward Monique Reid said of her team’s foul trouble. Reid picked up three fouls in the first half and spent a chunk of time sitting on the bench, a period during which Louisville dug itself a hole. Reid is second in Big East conference play in scoring and rebounding, averaging 19.7 points and 12 rebounds per game.
Georgetown’s perimeter defense and half-court mobbing of Louisville ball carriers caused Louisville to run a sloppy offense that looked confused and even timid at times. In total, the Hoyas forced 30 turnovers.
But just as the Hoyas took a 13-point lead, the Cardinals went on a 9-0 run to make it 25-21, with an angry Williams-Flournoy shaking her head on the sideline.
A nice pull-up jump shot by senior guard Shanice Fuller and a steal and breakaway layup by Rodgers halted the Louisville surge and made it 32-23 at the half.
In the second half, the game immediately became more physical. Louisville continued to commit turnovers, including backcourt violations and traveling, aided by the constant pressure forced at half-court by Hoya guards junior Monica McNutt, Wright, Fuller and Rodgers.
“We just did a good job of throwing the ball to the other team and we’ve had this problem all year,” Walz said afterwards. “To be fair, we were playing with our No. 3 and No. 4 point guards today.”
The second half started the same way as the first, with the teams combining for just five points in the first four and a half minutes. It was a messy game, with a lot of fouls, turnovers and missed shots. But a 10-2 run made it 42-25 at the 12-minute mark and the Hoyas seemed to be cruising.