The Georgetown women’s basketball team hosted the James Madison University Dukes on Thursday night, falling by a final score of 66-59 despite leading by as many as 17 points in the first half.
The Hoyas (1-2) came into the match against the Dukes (3-1) having seen their season end at their hands last spring. James Madison knocked Georgetown out of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament Quarterfinal in Harrisonburg, Va., on March 31 by a final score of 54-44, ending the Hoyas’ 2018-19 campaign with a 19-16 record.
Georgetown opened the game with the same lineup as they had against the University of Pittsburgh and Davidson College, with the Hoyas beating the Panthers after a season-opening loss to the Wildcats. The starting lineup featured graduate student guard Brianna Jones, senior forward Anita Kelava, sophomore guard Nikola Kovacikova, graduate guard Taylor Barnes and freshman forward Graceann Bennett.
The first quarter had a high-scoring start, led by Barnes, who scored five quick points before picking up her second foul with more than six minutes to play. Kovacikova was a force toward the end of the period, hitting two consecutive jump shots as part of a 6-0 run that gave the Hoyas an 18-14 lead after the first quarter of play. The quarter was marked from start to finish with sloppy play from both teams, with the Dukes tallied eight first quarter turnovers to five for the Hoyas.
Jones hit each of her first three shots from the field, but it did not affect her strategy for the rest of the game.
“I play at my best when I’m on the attack, when I’m just staying aggressive and it definitely just helps to have teammates who have confidence in me,” Jones said in an interview The Hoya. “They’re always telling me to keep shooting.”
The Hoyas’ strong finish to the first quarter spilled well into the second as that 6-0 run blossomed into a greater 17-2 run, forcing the Dukes to call timeout down 29-16 with 7:01 remaining in the half. The Hoyas kept their offense going in full gear throughout the duration of the second quarter, entering halftime with a 41-31 advantage. The Hoyas hit their first nine free throws attempted in the first half, a strong showing in the controllable fundamentals as the rest of the game was much more chaotic.
The first half featured 12 turnovers and 13 fouls for the Dukes, with the Hoyas keeping close in both categories with their nine fouls and seven turnovers. At the half, Jones paced the Hoyas with 11 points on four of eight shooting, while guard Kamiah Smalls led the Dukes with 14 points on six of ten shooting from the field. Junior center Breonna Mayfield and junior forward Tatiana Thompson did not play a ton in the first half, recording eight and six minutes, but their plus minus ratings of 12 paced the Hoyas at the break.
Both offenses came out of the break sluggish, with the third quarter remaining scoreless until Jones hit a jump shot with 7:05 to play. According to Jones, the pace was the result of coaching decisions made at halftime.
“The coaches are always going to challenge you at halftime. I think Coach Howard definitely challenged us,” Jones said. “The JMU coach also challenged them but they did a better job answering.”
Head Coach James Howard was also cognizant of the major style change at halftime, saying the coaching staff of both teams were instrumental in the change.
“They got going. Good teams, the coaches are always going to challenge,” Howard said.
The quarter remained low-scoring, as only three shots were made in the first five minutes of the quarter. The Dukes’ offense kicked into gear first, however, cutting the remains of the Georgetown 17-point lead to one point as the scoreboard read 45-44 with 2:36 to play in the third. The Dukes eventually took a 48-47 lead on a three-pointer from redshirt senior guard Jackie Benitez in the final minute of play, with that score remaining for the rest of the period, as the Hoyas only scored six points to the Dukes’ 17 throughout the frame.
The fourth quarter saw more physicality than the rest of the game, with each team ratcheting up the defensive intensity to the tune of seven combined fouls in the first 4 ½ minutes. With 1:47 to go in the game and the Hoyas trailing by seven, Kovacikova dribbled into a trap near halfcourt as the ball went out of bounds, sparking a crucial review to determine possession as the game neared its end. The review revealed that the ball was last touched by the Dukes as Georgetown maintained possession.
After the game, Howard admitted he was thankful for the replay, allowing him to adjust his defense and draw up an offensive set.
“It was about setting up the defense, and drawing up an offensive play to get the score at the other end,” Howard said after the game in an interview with The Hoya.
Kovacikova had an open look from downtown to cut the deficit to four with just over a minute to play, but the shot would not drop, as James Madison was able to run the clock down further. Ultimately, the Hoyas were unable to score in the final minute as the Dukes won 66-57.
For the game, the Hoyas’ most prolific offensive weapon was Jones, finishing with a strong 13 points. Sophomore center Shanniah Wright finished with 10 points and five rebounds while converting all eight of her free throw attempts.
The Dukes relied heavily on the offensive performances of Smalls and forward Devon Merritt, each of whom scored 21 points.
The Hoyas return to action Sunday, Nov. 24, at the Charles E. Smith Center against The George Washington University Colonials at 2 p.m.