Charles Nailen/The Hoya Rebekkah Brunson charged for a layup during the team’s victory over Syracuse, but had a tougher time facing Villanova.

Philadelphia, Pa. – Georgetown women’s basketball team has shown that it can play with the best, for a little while at least. Putting in 20 intense minutes against Villanova University Wednesday night on the road, the team posted a halftime lead over its opponent, ranked No. 20 in the nation. The Hoyas could not hang on, and a weak second half gave the Wildcats the game, 51-37. The previous Saturday at home, Georgetown played inconsistently but determinedly against Syracuse to pull out a 70-66 victory in the last minutes of the game.

The shaky efforts leave the Hoyas still winless against a top-50 team in the RPI and groping to put together a solid effort that can confirm a tournament berth.

A larger-than-usual crowd filled McDonough Gymnasium over the weekend to watch Georgetown battle traditional rival Syracuse in a rematch of their first struggle, an 82-75 overtime win for the Hoyas in Manley Field House.

“A month ago, we didn’t give up on their home floor, so we weren’t going to give up on our home floor,” Bruce said.

The visitors looked to control this game, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the first minutes. The Hoyas would not back down, though, and soon they had overtaken their opponent. The teams sprinted down each end of the court, trying to establish a lead, but neither team could effectively outpace the other. Georgetown eventually finished the first period on top with a slight margin, 28-27.

While Syracuse shot a higher field goal percentage, Georgetown sank more baskets in the half, 12 to 10. Sophomore guard Rochelle Coleman led the Orangewomen with 8 points, while senior forward Zsuzsanna Horvath and junior forward Rebekkah Brunson both stood on top for the Hoyas with six. The home team did an excellent job of keeping its rival from any second chance shots by limiting it to one offensive rebound.

“We went over in practice how they like to crash the boards for offensive rebounds, especially the guards, so we had to box them out well,” freshman forward Carmen Bruce said.

When the teams returned to the court, the struggle to control the game continued. With only six minutes left, Georgetown opened up with some hot shooting from downtown; sophomore guard Mary Lisicky hit two three-pointers while Bruce added one. Turnovers and mental mistakes then crept into the Hoyas game, allowing the Orangewomen to launch a counteroffensive. The visiting team eventually brought the game back to a tie at 64-64 with 1:34 left on the clock.

“We made a few bad decisions to let them score, but we got ourselves together to win,” Brunson said.

Georgetown refused to wilt under pressure, and the last 12 points from both teams came from the free-throw line. There Brunson and Lisicky showed poise, each netting four baskets in the final minute and 18 seconds. Syracuse could not contend, and the game fell to Georgetown 70-66.

“I’m very happy that we sucked it up and gutted it out,” Head Coach Patrick Knapp said.

The Hoyas brought their shooting up to 44.8 percent in the last 20 minutes, while their opponents lagged to a mediocre 32.1 percent. The Orangewomen received help from Hoya fouls, and they milked the charity stripe for 22 points in the game, 18 of them in the second half. Brunson led the game with a double-double performance. She scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Bruce and Lisicky chipped in with 16 and 15 points respectively. Coleman finished on top for Syracuse with 16 points, while junior guards Shannon Perry and Julie McBride helped out with a combined 28 points. Junior guard April Jean crashed the boards for 13 rebounds.

Syracuse has struggled this season, posting a 9-15 record and a 4-9 Big East record. They stand in 10th in the conference, one spot below Georgetown.

Later, on Wednesday, the Pavilion pulsed with energy as local residents came to watch one of the top teams in the country, stacked with some of the best outside shooters. While Georgetown failed to offer much competition for other elite opponents, the team planned on aggressive defense pressuring the Villanova guards and a strong inside offense. For much of the first 20 minutes, the players executed their game plan well.

“We got the ball where we wanted it. We knew they didn’t have the inside presence to match us,” Lisicky said. “They have a good offense; they keep running around. We had to step up on defense.”

The first few minutes, however, provided a spectacle of slipshod shooting. The Wildcats went up on the scoreboard first with a jumper from senior guard Trish Juhline and the Hoyas failed to answer until almost six minutes had elapsed in the game, when Horvath sank a layup. The offenses finally broke through halfway through the first half, when Villanova broke away to a seven point lead, the largest of the half, behind the three-pointers of senior forward Katie Davis.

“Davis should not have made her first shots. Although some inexperience may be a factor, she should have been guarded,” Knapp said.

The Hoyas climbed back into the game a minute later, and their improved shooting, combined with a man-on-man defense that assertively attacked the other team, helped keep them competitive against the Wildcats. Within the last minute, Lisicky hit two free throws followed by a layup from Bruce to put the team ahead by two, 23-21, at the half.

Cold shooting dominated the first half; Georgetown hit one-third of their 24 attempts while Villanova only sank eight of 30 tries, a 26.7 percent field goal average. Of the 19 shots the Wildcats took from beyond the arc, they only netted three. Georgetown received assistance from the free-throw line, where the team nailed six of seven shots.

Duany and Brunson led the charge in the paint, each netting six points. The two also combined for 11 rebounds, half of the team’s total. Davis sank three treys as she picked up 11 points and provided much of her team’s momentum during the half. Juhline provided backup with six points.

After 20 minutes, the Hoyas placed themselves in a strong position; they boasted a 9-1 record when leading at the half. However, the one loss came from Notre Dame, a top-flight team that wore down Georgetown in the second half to post an easy victory. That story repeated itself here.

Villanova opened up the second period with a pair of three-pointers that gave them the lead. Early Hoya turnovers allowed the Wildcats to make some fast break layups that sent the team up by seven, 32-25, after five minutes. After a timeout, Georgetown responded with a run that put it within one point of its host, 34-33, with 9:18 left on the clock. The turnovers, fouls, and missed shots kept piling up, and Villanova soon had full control of the game.

Everything fell in the Wildcats favor as they sank their shots and made key steals that helped demoralize their opponents. At one point, a Villanova player tripped with a second left on the shot clock and still managed to lob in a jumper that seemed to signal that nothing would go right for Georgetown. As the home team managed to extend their lead into the double-digits, it set up a stalling offense that used up the shot clock and then dumped the ball to the guards for a shot from downtown.

“Key turnovers ended up being our downfall,” Knapp said.

When the buzzer sounded, the Hoyas had fallen to a 51-37 defeat, their worst offensive effort this season. Once again, a strong start yielded to soft shooting and mental mistakes that caused the team to crumple before the impact of physically and psychologically demanding adversaries.

“I think that if we had kept scoring, you wouldn’t have seen it end like this,” Knapp said.

Villanova raised its shooting percentage to 40.0 percent for the second half while Georgetown sank to 6-for-24, or 25.0 percent. Both teams, though, netted less than one-third of their shots for the game. Seven baskets from beyond the arc for the Wildcats also helped, while most of the Hoyas points came from inside.

Villanova also snatched more rebounds, 37 to 36, as guards came in to crash the boards, especially in the second half, while Georgetown looked more complacent in the paint. Georgetown also felt the burn of 16 turnovers which led to 12 steals for its host.

Duany led Georgetown with 10 points, the only double-digit scorer, and pulled down seven rebounds. Brunson added nine points and grabbed nine boards. Davis proved indefensible, or poorly defended, as she garnered 21 points, 15 from downtown, followed by Juhline with 14. The offense output of those two alone nearly matched that of the Hoyas.

“Their seniors play very well together, and I’ll be happy to see them go,” Knapp said.

After the one-and-one run, Georgetown stands at 14-9 for the season and 5-7 in Big East play. Villanova moves up to 19-4 in total and 9-3 in the conference, a sure lock for the NCAA tournament.

Georgetown matches up against Rutgers in McDonough Gymnasium at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Rutgers, another ranked No. 22 in the nation, occupies the second spot in the Big East with a 9-2 conference record. Georgetown, with only four games to play in the season, needs to make a stand against Rutgers if it harbors any postseason ambitions.

“Against Rutgers, we’ll have to crash the boards hard, push the ball inside and cut down on turnovers. If we can do that, then we’ll have the advantage,” Brunson said.

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