3945888983COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Barack Obama predicted an early exit from the NCAA tournament for No. 5 seed Georgetown (23-10) in its first-round meeting with No. 12 seed Princeton (24-5). But sophomore guard Sugar Rodgers made the president eat his words, scoring a game-high 26 points en route to a convincing 65-49 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“I would just say, maybe next time you want to pick Georgetown,” Rodgers said of the commander in chief’s pick.

The Tigers scored the first two points of the game, but the Lady Hoyas responded with a 22-3 run and never allowed the normally hot-shooting Ivy League champions to within 13 points. The victory sets Georgetown up for a second-round clash with No. 4 seed Maryland on Tuesday night.

The Blue and Gray employed their stifling full-court press from the tip-off, forcing 14 first-half turnovers from the Tigers and allowing only 14 first-half points to a Princeton team that averaged almost 70 points per game coming into Sunday. Leading 9-5 with 15:22 remaining in the first half, Georgetown held Princeton scoreless for the following 6:43. By the time the Tigers scored again, the Hoyas led by a comfortable 17 points, and Rodgers already had 11 of her own.

“We wanted to start the pressure off just a little bit higher and be just a little bit more aggressive because we wanted to see how they would handle that first,” Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “And I thought my girls did an extremely good job of pressuring them and closing traps.”

Princeton entered the game having won 16 of its last 17 but was visibly shaken by Georgetown’s heightened pace. While the Tigers entered the game shooting 44.7 percent from the field, their accuracy dipped to just 28.6 percent in the first half and 37.2 percent for the game.

“That was not the version of Princeton basketball I had seen all year. Give all the credit to Georgetown,” Princeton Head Coach Courtney Banghart said. “They got us completely unraveled. We backed down a little bit. … We don’t see that kind of pressure very often.”

The Blue and Gray were exceedingly quick in transition, converting their opponents’ numerous giveaways into 22 points off turnovers in the first half alone.

“We pride ourselves on defense a lot. Once we were down getting steals and being aggressive, then our offense just kind of flowed through the defense,” junior forward Tia Magee said. “We were playing very intense as a team, just working well together, so that made everything a whole lot easier.”

Magee finished with 14 points in one of her best performances of the season, but as has been so often the case for the Hoyas the past two seasons, it was Rodgers who dominated the stat sheet. Georgetown’s leading scorer at 18.4 points per game, Rodgers outscored the entire Princeton offense in the first half, and the unanimous all-Big East first-team selection added eight rebounds, four assists and three steals — all team highs.

“You don’t score 18 points a game for nothing. She’s a good player,” Princeton senior guard Addie Micir said. “We tried to dare her to take contested threes, and she knocked them down.”

While the Hoyas cruised to a 34-14 advantage at the half, they were outscored 35-31 in the second half by the Tigers, who were unwilling to let their season go without a fight. Micir led Princeton with 13 points, while 6-foot-3 junior center Devona Allgood, who had been held scoreless in the opening period, added eight points. A 12-1 run midway through the half trimmed a 26-point deficit to a more respectable 16 points, but the outcome was never in question.

Looking ahead to Tuesday night’s rematch with Maryland, Georgetown will need another strong performance from its superstar if it hopes to advance to its second-ever Sweet 16.

“Especially when Sugar’s going, the whole team — we’re in the zone. It helps our defense, it helps everything,” Magee said. “Personally, when I get the ball, I’m looking for Sugar. She’s hot, then get her the ball. I’m feeling good when Sugar is on.”

The Hoyas’ second-round game will be played again in College Park at the Comcast Center, which is the Terrapins’ home court. The Blue and Gray defeated their regional rivals, 53-45, at McDonough Arena Nov. 16.

“We’re playing on a neutral court right now, so that should help us,” Williams-Flournoy joked. “It’s the tournament time, and they’ve gotten so much better since we played them in November. The only advantage is that yes, we’ve played them before, and our kids are confident because we did beat them the first time.”

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday night in College Park.

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