Providence No Challenge For GU

By Stephen Owens Hoya Staff Writer

The Georgetown women’s basketball team laid the seeds for one final run at the NCAA tournament after two consecutive home victories this week, but a season-ending surge may be too little, too late in the eyes of the tournament selection committee.

The Hoyas scraped and clawed their way to a win over Miami last Saturday 66-61 after trailing most of the game, then coasted to victory over an inferior Providence squad 63-49 Tuesday. The wins bump the Hoyas overall record to 15-10 and their Big East record to 8-6.

The wins revived the post-season hopes of both coaches and players alike.

“We know that we can go places if we finish strong,” junior tri-captain Nathalie Bourdereau said. “We’re not ready to settle for a [National Invitational Tournament] bid.”

Head Coach Pat Knapp predicted what it will take to earn an invite to the Big Dance: “To make the NCAA tournament, we need to win the next four in a row.”

To win four in a row, the Hoyas will need to win their two remaining regular season games against Pittsburgh and West Virginia, and then make a semifinal appearance in the Big East tournament, which will entail beating a ranked opponent in the quarterfinals. The Hoyas have been unable to accomplish this feat in six previous opportunities.

The pair of wins over Miami and Providence, in conjunction with three straight Villanova losses, all but assures the Hoyas of finishing the Big East season in fifth place for the second consecutive year. The Hoyas need only win one of their final two regular season games to guarantee a fifth-place conference finish, a feasible task with their final game of the season against Big East cellar-dweller West Virginia.

Freshman center Suzy Bendegue had perhaps the best game of her career against the Friars Tuesday, coming within a field goal of her first collegiate double-double. Bendegue started off especially strong, hitting three of her first four shots to give the Hoyas an early 8-6 lead which they never surrendered. The 6-foot-10 rookie also grabbed seven rebounds in the half, eclipsing her previous career high of five caroms in the first half alone. Bendegue finished with eight points and 11 caroms in addition to tying a career high five blocked shots.

“Defensively, I thought she hurt them a lot,” Knapp said of Bendegue’s performance.

Despite the overall impressive performance, Bendegue faded as the game progressed, hitting only one of her final eight shots, nearly all of which were lay-ups, and her playing time decreased accordingly as the game progressed.

“If she plays passive, we won’t play her,” Knapp said following the game, “If she plays aggressive and with confidence, she’ll be in there, it’s that simple.”

Junior guard Katie Smrcka-Duffy and Bourdereau led the Hoyas on offense with 18 points each. Smrcka-Duffy tallied only six points in the first half, but quietly added 12 more in the second half to prevent the Friars from cutting Georgetown’s lead to less than nine points.

Smrcka-Duffy also brought down eight rebounds and led the Hoyas with five assists.

As usual though, Smrcka-Duffy’s contributions went beyond what the statistics can show and finished the game with her usual assortment of bumps and bruises. Twice during the second half, Smrcka-Duffy went up for a lay-up only to come crashing down to the hardwood floor, each time adding another two points for the Hoyas. At least as many times, the sound of her knee screeching across the court could be heard as she dove for loose balls.

“She’s a competitor,” Knapp said of his star guard. “She does it all.”

Bourdereau came off the bench to match her season high18 points. Despite a breakout game for Bourdereau, she was critical of her performance.

“I missed a few lay-ups and that bothers me,” Bourdereau said.

Knapp agreed: “I think she could have had 30 [points].”

Freshman forward Nok Duany added 10 points and five rebounds and junior forward Dani Ilic grabbed seven rebounds in the first half and led the Hoyas with five assists along with Smrcka-Duffy. Sophomore guard Lesley Walker led the Hoyas with five steals.

Providence’s Meghan Hinds led all scorers with 19 points.

Despite the win, Knapp was critical of his team’s performance.

“We played below our level,” he said. “We should take the win, but realize that we can play a hell of a lot better.

“Every time you win in this league, you shouldn’t just clap your hands and say ‘Goody’. You have to measure your success sometimes more than on the ‘W’ and ‘L’.”

Last Saturday, the Hoyas overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to defeat Miami 66-61.

The Hoyas finished the game on a 10-1 run during the last five minutes to turn a four point deficit into a five point win.

Walker’s three-pointer with three minutes left in the game capped off a slow but steady second half comeback and gave the Hoyas the lead for good.

Smrcka-Duffy led the Hoyas on offense with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Among her 17 game points was her 1,000th career point at Georgetown. Smrcka-Duffy is now one of 16 Georgetown players in team history to topple the 1,000-point barrier. Unlike the other members of Georgetown’s 1,000-point club, Smrcka-Duffy has accomplished the feat in less than two full seasons.

Bourdereau and Duany reached double-digits in scoring also, each adding 12 points apiece.

Miami’s Gina Graziani led all scorers with 18 points.

The Hoyas will look to build on their late-season momentum this Saturday as they travel to Pittsburgh to battle the Panthers in their final road game of the regular season. Pittsburgh currently stands in seventh place in the Big East with a 6-8 conference record, but is coming off an upset win over Villanova and will be hungry for another.

The Hoyas close out their regular season next Tuesday in a home game against West Virginia before traveling to Storrs, Conn., for the Big East tournament which begins March 4.

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