In March, the Georgetown women’s basketball team (1-0) completed one of its best seasons in school history, winning 20 games and advancing to the quarterfinals of the WNIT, despite having one of the youngest rosters in the country.
On Saturday, Georgetown opened its 2009-2010 season by defeating Missouri State (0-1), 79-55. The defense was spectacular, forcing 25 turnovers, which included 17 steals. The offense shot 48.5 percent from the field, including a 47.1 percent mark from three-point range. Four players scored in double digits.
“There are just some games where the shots fall, and this was one of those games,” said Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, who is starting her sixth season at the helm for the Hoyas. “We were running in transition a lot and we were able to make some three-pointers.”
Williams-Flournoy has a 71-77 career record after Saturday’s game, but she has finished with winning records in each of the last two seasons, and her teams’ overall records have improved each of the past three seasons. She also served as an assistant coach at Georgetown for four seasons, including the 1992-1993 season, in which the team won 23 games – the last time the Hoyas won 20 or more games before last year’s team.
With a tough act to follow, the butterflies that come with a new season showed at the opening. During the first four minutes, the Hoyas committed five turnovers and found themselves in a 10-4. After that, however, the Blue and Gray showed some improvement, recording 16 assists to 13 turnovers.
“It was just the first game,” Williams-Flournoy, who returns four starters from last year’s team, said. Senior forward Jaleesa Butler recorded 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field, while grabbing six rebounds, dishing out two assists and recording one block.
Sophomore guard Rubylee Wright scored 13 points, including 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc, while tallying six rebounds, half of them coming on the offensive boards. Wright also led the team with five assists and recorded two steals.
“Everybody was ready, and the coaches prepared us well for the season,” Wright said. “The coaches stressed focusing more on making shots, and we just accepted what they wanted us to do.”
Georgetown welcomes three freshmen to the big stage this season with center Sydney Wilson, center Vanessa Moore and guard Ta’Shauna “Sugar” Rodgers.
From the get-go, Rodgers put on a show, leading the Hoyas with 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting – including 2-of-4 shooting from deep – and a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line. She also grabbed five rebounds and dished two assists.
“I thought she played well – she was a little nervous,” Williams-Flournoy said. “But it’s no surprise that she played well.”
Despite the excellent offensive performances, the defense was the key. The Blue and Gray used a combination of a full-court pressure and half-court traps to fluster the Bears into turnover after turnover. The Hoyas forced 25 turnovers, leading to 29 points on the other end, with 23 of those points coming in the second half. Even when Missouri State did not turn the ball over, the swarming Georgetown defense limited them to a dismal 19 percent from three-point range and 30.4 percent from field-goal range
“We have a lot of defensive goals,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We want our defense to create our offense, and we did a really good job of that [on Saturday].”
Wright agreed, also commenting on the tenacious play.
“It was just knowing what [Missouri State] was doing on offensive and playing aggressive against the ball,” she said.
Sophomore forward Latia Magee led the team with four steals, while also scoring six points. Junior guard Monica McNutt was second with three steals, while tallying 10 points, four rebounds and four assists. McNutt also knocked down two shots from three-point land.
Rebounding was the one weak area for Georgetown, as the Hoyas were outrebounded 38-37, but there was no one Hoya who carried the rebounding load. Both Williams-Flournoy and Wright acknowledged that the Blue and Gray were on the wrong side of the rebound state line, and agreed that they needed to work on it.
“Rebounding was something that we worked on, and the coaches really stressed `team rebounding,’ with everybody getting in and rebounding the ball,” the 5-foot-3 Wright said.
Overall, though, it was a solid start to a new season for a seasoned team.
“They’re playing with a little more confidence,” Williams-Flournoy said. “They’re being more aggressive and they’ve bought into the defense, running in transition. But they’re having fun.”
The opening game in Springfield, Mo., was the first of a six-game road trip for the Hoyas. Georgetown plays James Madison, which loses three starters from last year’s 24-10 team, in Harrisonburg, Va., on Wednesday, with tip-off scheduled for 8 p.m. The Hoyas beat the Dukes last year 62-59.”