Despite a disappointing first-half performance resulting in an 82-53 loss, the Hoyas held their own against Villanova University on Feb. 8 as they shot, rebounded and defended their way to survival in the second half with tremendous energy.
The Georgetown University women’s basketball team (12-12, 5-10 Big East) suffered its largest conference loss of the season so far against the No. 15 Villanova Wildcats (21-4, 12-2 Big East). The Hoyas narrowly fell 71-64 to the Wildcats earlier this season in a much closer Jan. 4 road matchup.
The Hoyas sported pink uniforms during the match as part of Georgetown’s annual Play4Kay game to raise awareness for breast cancer research. Play4Kay honors the life of Kay Yow, a Hall of Fame basketball coach, and has since been adopted by over 500 schools across the country.
Georgetown played a patient game on the offensive side to start, using up most of its shot clock while being selectively aggressive to generate scoring chances. Although the Hoyas put pressure on the Wildcats’ defense, Villanova played with far more offensive conviction, led by forward Maddy Siegrist, the current leading NCAA Division I scorer. The Wildcats’ free-flowing movement allowed them to execute multiple catch-and-shoots on open looks.
Even as Villanova initially struggled to connect on those shots, Georgetown failed to capitalize on its opponent’s mistakes, as the Hoyas turned over the ball via multiple errant passes, keeping the score tied at 7-7 with 4:50 remaining in the first quarter.
Head Coach James Howard decided to use his bench early on to mitigate an impending Wildcat scoring run.
“To get back into the game, we had to press a little bit more and try to turn them over,” Howard told The Hoya. “We had to play more people because that pace takes a lot out of your guards.”
While Georgetown went 0-for-11 on field goal attempts to close out the first quarter, the Wildcats steadily cruised ahead with a 15-0 scoring streak once Howard substituted senior forward Graceann Bennett and junior forward Jada Claude out of the game with 03:39 left in the quarter. Villanova’s squad ultimately proved to have more depth as the Wildcats ended the game outscoring Georgetown 31-8 on bench points.
The Hoyas struggled in transition defense, while their offense was stifled by a combination of heavily contested layups and poor shooting from outside the paint.
The second quarter saw little improvement. Georgetown continued to struggle to move off the ball and make clean passes, thus creating a one-dimensional offense that was easily stopped by crowding Wildcat defenders near the post.
By the end of the first half, the Hoyas shot an abysmal 3-for-17 on layups. Meanwhile, Villanova punished the Hoyas’ sloppy play, shooting 43.75% from the floor in the second quarter. Georgetown entered halftime down 16-43.
Howard expressed disappointment with his team’s first-half defensive performance.
“We got beat off of cuts, layups, we missed some assignments up there and that led to giving them a lot of points in the first half — about 43 points, that’s too many points,” Howard said. “We pride ourselves on playing good defense and in the first half we didn’t.”
Siegrist alone scored 27 points against the Hoyas throughout the game. Wildcat guard Kaitlyn Orihel also proved an offensive menace, frequently beating the Hoya defense on the post on her way to scoring 20 points of her own.
While the first half escaped the Hoyas, the second half of the match resembled a David and Goliath-esque struggle between Georgetown and Villanova.
The Hoyas looked like an entirely different team coming out of the locker room, finally landing buckets to shoot 50.0% from the field, more than double their dismal 20.0% field goal conversion rate from the first half, to win the third quarter 21-20. Georgetown maintained its new-found chemistry until the final buzzer, only dropping the final quarter by 3 points.
The Hoyas’ second-half resurgence proved futile, as the Wildcats’ first-half lead proved insurmountable at the final buzzer.
“The game was played in the first half […] I wish we had the same sense of urgency in the first two quarters,” Howard said. “The second half is who we are. We played this team tough, but you gotta start the game, you gotta play well right out the gate.”
The Hoyas will look to improve upon their performance as they face the No. 4 University of Connecticut Huskies (21-4, 13-1 Big East) on Feb. 11 at the Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington, D.C. The Huskies, whose star players have been plagued by injuries all season, lost back-to-back games for the first time since 1993, falling to No. 1 University of South Carolina (23-0, 10-0 SEC) on Feb. 5 before suffering a first-time loss against Marquette University (16-8, 9-6 Big East) on Feb. 8.