Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Early Loss for Women’s Hoops

Charles Nailen/The Hoya unior guard Mary Lisicky shot 1-of-11 during the team’s 56-47 loss to Virginia Tech in the first round of the conference tourney.

HARTFORD, Conn. – As in so many games before it this season, the Georgetown women’s basketball team could have won. The Hoyas led by 12 points and commanded the court, forging ahead after an early struggle. But in this disappointing cap to an uneven season, the talented team could keep it together long enough to withstand the charge of another tough opponent.

Virginia Tech (22-6, 11-6 Big East), once the victim of a 20-point upset when Georgetown’s fortunes flew higher, came back with an aggressive push that its opponent failed to match and left the losers with a palpable sense of frustration. The 56-47 defeat knocked the Hoyas (13-15, 7-10 Big East) out of the Big East tournament after the first round while the Hokies stay another day to face top-seeded Connecticut.

“That’s Big East basketball. You play good teams; you got to keep playing for 40 minutes. You can’t take plays off,” Georgetown Head Coach Pat Knapp said.

The teams battled back and forth throughout much of the half, until Georgetown was able to grab the edge and push ahead. Play was skittish with both teams showing nerves, fatigue or just poor ball control in a shifting duel. With 11:35 left in the half, the teams were deadlocked at 13-13, but soon Georgetown forged ahead, going on a nine-point run in the next five minutes. Although Virginia Tech claimed some ground in the final minutes, Georgetown still held a seven-point lead, 28-21, going into halftime.

“I was really disappointed. It felt like we didn’t work to get the deep post up and really challenge their post players,” Virginia Tech Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “We didn’t have good presence offensively or defensively.”

Throughout the first half, the advantage went to whichever team could hold on to the ball. Both teams struggled to complete passes, watching the ball roll out of bounds or into the hands of an opposing player. Georgetown ended the half having committed 16 turnovers while Virginia Tech had 12. On the flip side, steals were common, with Georgetown grabbing seven; junior guard Bethany LeSueur alone picked off four passes.

The Hoyas held a definite scoring edge after 20 minutes, shooting 12-of-25 while benefiting from a Hokie team that could only produce seven field goals from 27 attempts, for a 25.9 shooting percentage. Poor free-throw shooting also kept Virginia Tech from narrowing its opponent’s lead; the team only managed to sink six of its 11 free throws.

For the most part, the crowd remained quiet throughout the spectacle, but the Hartford Civic Center echoed with a frenzy of cheering and shouting prompted by the appearance of Connecticut’s basketball team, who walked in partway through the half like princesses surveying their royal domain – and scouting the next day’s competition.

Entering the second half, Georgetown expanded its lead and outpaced its rival in scoring. Five minutes into the half, Georgetown had a 40-28 lead and looked capable of maintaining the pace. Then the Hoyas faltered on offense, turning over the ball and failing to compensate for a double-team on senior forward Rebekkah Brunson that slowed her down. In turn, Virginia Tech ratcheted up the intensity on both sides of the court, smothering its opponents on defense and crashing the boards on offense.

“We fell off and allowed them to penetrate the middle and gave them a lot of open looks,” Brunson said.

Georgetown’s offense came to a halt after Brunson dropped in a layup at 10:09. Less than three minutes later, senior forward Ieva Kublina evened the scoring at 43 with a layup and accompanying free throw.

“I think we were more patient with our offense. We ran things harder, with a purpose,” sophomore guard Carrie Mason said.

While Kublina, the team’s leading scorer, was stymied by the Hoyas’ post players, sophomore forward Kerri Gardin took charge, driving to the basket and picking up her own rebounds. Gardin’s eight points and 11 rebounds in the second half propelled the team past the slipping Hoyas, and sophomore guards Dawn Chriss and Mason each added eight points in the half as well to thrust the Hokies to the lead.

“Being aggressive and assertive is contagious, just like being passive and timid is contagious. I though it started with Kerri Gardin,” Henrickson said, speaking about the Hokies’ turnaround.

After tying the game, Virginia Tech scored 11 more unanswered points to reverse the previous position. Now Georgetown was fading and quickly on its way out of the tournament. Down 54-43 with 2:43 left, the Hoyas fought hard, hoping for a miracle. It never came, however, and the letdown was obvious when Brunson left the court for the last time as a Hoya. Virginia Tech fans had long lost their worried expressions and the Hokies passed to the next round, 56-47.

“You don’t have a shot if you don’t get to play,” Henrickson said about moving on to the quarterfinals. “At least we get to play.”

Whereas the Hokies had trouble finding the basket in the first half, they passed on that problem to the Hoyas, who shot a similar 7-of-25, or 25.9 percent. Virginia Tech stepped up for 11 field goals in the second half. The Hokies shot 18-of-55 for the game; compared with the Hoyas’ 19-of-52 it was not much better, but then Georgetown had seven points from free throws against Virginia Tech’s 17.

Another mitigating factor in the Hoyas’ loss was the team’s 28 turnovers, nine more than Virginia Tech. The Hokies scored 18 points off turnovers to the Hoyas’ 15.

“You look at those 28 turnovers and 18 offensive rebounds. They got too many second chances at critical times in the second half,” Knapp said. “Twenty-eight turnovers tell the story.”

Virginia Tech finished with three double-digit scorers, but Georgetown only had Brunson, who finished with a game-high in both points (18) and rebounds (17). She and sophomore swingman Carmen Bruce, who finished in second with nine points, both shot 50 percent, but that could not offset a generally weak offense. Brunson lit up the court even in defeat and certainly earned her All-Big East First Team distinction with the caliber of play she demonstrated.

“She has had a great career,” Henrickson said of Brunson.

With a 13-15 record and a first-round tournament loss, Georgetown is out of the NIT despite having a number of quality wins over top teams, such as Virginia Tech, as well as Notre Dame and Villanova, the tournament’s second and third seeds. Despite obvious talent, the team could not consistently match up against its competitors this season. So now the team has time to plan for next year, when they will have to find a way to win without Brunson’s intimidating post presence.

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