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Sophomore guard Monica McNutt goes up for a shot in last week’s opening-round win over Winthrop. McNutt had 12 points in a 65-49 win over Richmond in the third round of the WNIT on Thursday.

If it’s true that defense wins championships, then the Georgetown Hoyas are well on their way to one.

A third

See WNIT opponent proved incapable of coping with Georgetown’s (20-17, 7-9 Big East) swarming defense. This time it was the hapless Richmond Spiders (24-9, 9-5 A-10). Senior guard Karee Houlette, sophomore guard Monica McNutt, and freshman forward Latia Magee each hit double-figure scoring to provide plenty of offense, as the Hoya defense pressured and trapped the Spiders to a 65-49 victory. A Sunday trip to Boston College (22-11, 7-7 ACC) awaits them in the quarterfinals, where the Hoyas will look to continue their dominant defensive play.

“We’re just trying to stay aggressive, you know, whether we’re playing man or in zone,” Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “They’re just really being aggressive and getting into the passing lanes, and we’re just disrupting teams on defense.”

Disrupt the other team on defense, indeed. At halftime, Richmond had already committed 15 turnovers while scoring only 14 points. The Spiders’ sophomore guard and leading scorer Brittani Shells, who averaged 15.6 points per game entering the contest, was held without a point for the first time all season. Shells missed all five of her attempts in the first half and took no shots in the second half.

“Our defense, this way, has been a long time coming,” McNutt said. “We’ve been working on this all year, so now we’re like getting our timing together, we know when to jump into passing lanes, we know who to trap with – like, I mean we’re on cruise control out there.”

The Hoyas’ athleticism allowed them to continually close off passing lanes, get to loose balls and prevent the Spiders from getting any open looks, particularly in the first half. Senior guard Johanna McKnight was Richmond’s leading scorer at halftime, scoring five points on 2-of-7 shooting. The Spiders shot only 29.8 percent on the game, including a 19 percent first-half performance that saw them shoot 4-for-21.

Offensively, it was all McNutt and freshman guard Rubylee Wright for the Hoyas in the first half. McNutt scored all 12 of her points in the first half and Wright came off the bench for eight before the break to help the Hoyas build a 30-14 lead at the half.

The Hoyas’ aggressive defense prevented the Spiders from ever developing any offensive rhythm. Georgetown’s offensive struggles of its own prevented the Hoyas from pulling away early, but McNutt’s three early treys gave the Hoyas a 14-7 lead with 12:25 left in the first half. Wright’s deep three with 37 seconds left in the half gave Georgetown that 30-14 halftime lead.

In the second half, Richmond found a little more space, scoring 35 points after intermission – but that came after Georgetown had put the game beyond doubt. Junior guard Danielle Bell scored 11 of her team-high 13 after the half, and McKnight and Bilney each had eight in the second period for 13 and 11 points, respectively. But those efforts made little impact, as Richmond never got closer than 12 points in the second half.

For the Hoyas, it was Houlette and Magee that made the difference after the break. After struggling to a 1-for-7 first half, Houlette shot 5-of-7 to finish with a game-high 17 points, which, as she explained it, was only a matter of time.

“Everybody just keeps telling me to shoot,” said the senior guard. “Even when I don’t have confidence, they’re telling me to shoot, so I mean, I just let it go.” Houlette’s outside shooting helped open things up for Magee inside, where the freshman forward once again took advantage of slower opposing bigs. Magee dropped 11 points in the second half to finish with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

The Hoyas shot 43.4 percent for the game, including 10-of-22 shooting from behind the three-point line, and much of their offensive success stemmed from the defensive end of the floor.

“We’ve started running a lot, getting a lot of stuff out of transition, pushing the ball, and that’s what we have to do, because a lot of teams can’t play at the pace we play.” Houlette said. “We’re forcing more turnovers, so we’re getting more opportunities.”

The Hoyas are hitting their stride at the right time, and as they prepare for a 5 p.m. Sunday visit to Boston College, they feel confident about their chances to keep advancing.

“We’ve been saying, since we got into the NIT, to do what we do,” McNutt said. “We’ve got to continue to play that aggressive defense, we’ve got to continue to make shots, crash the boards and make free throws. If we continue to do that and play hard, we can win it.”

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