GU Thrilled, But Job Far From Done
Published: Friday, March 25, 2011
Updated: Saturday, March 26, 2011 10:03
A first-round blowout of Princeton and an even more dominant performance against Maryland have put the Georgetown women's basketball team in the round of 16 for only the second time in school history. An Elite Eight berth would be nice, but a massive roadblock in the form of No. 1 Connecticut stands in the Lady Hoyas' way. They should be satisfied with the Sweet 16, right?
Not even close.
Make no mistake; Georgetown is happy to be here. The only other time a women's basketball team from the Hilltop made it this far was 1993 when star sophomore guard Sugar Rodgers was a toddler and Head Coach Terri-Williams Flournoy was an assistant. This year's incarnation is unsurprisingly excited to be a part of Georgetown history.
"That's what I came here for," junior forward Tia Magee said. "It's exciting. We've progressed every single year since we got here our freshman year. ... The Sweet 16, it's just one of our goals for this year, and we'll continue to keep it going."
But while the joy of their landslide victory over Maryland was still visible in the faces of all the Lady Hoyas after Thursday's practice, the team is far from complacent.
"We're enjoying it, but we've got to look forward to UConn because it's our next game," Rodgers said. "We beat Maryland, we beat Princeton. … That's in the past now."
In many ways, the players' continued hunger is a reflection of Williams-Flournoy's coaching style and basketball philosophy. Three years ago, she scrapped the team's methodical half-court game in favor of a no-holds-barred, fast-break strategy based on pressing defense and freewheeling offense.
"I want to press, I want to run up and down, I want to make this exciting. And the coaches looked at me and said, ‘We'll do it,'" Williams-Flournoy said. "I said that I don't want to run just one press. I want to run three, four, five different presses."
Changing the style of play came with some growing pains, but ultimately the players and assistants bought into their coach's new system. For senior guard Monica McNutt, this tournament is the culmination of a four-year career that saw the full transformation of Georgetown women's basketball from a mediocre Big East program to one of the most exciting, elite teams in the conference.
"For me, it means the world," McNutt said. "I'm being honest, like, this is huge. In terms of the program, I think we're making a statement, and we're getting on the right track. I hope and I believe our program is here to stay."
Defeating the Huskies will be a Herculean task. Georgetown forced the defending champions into 37.8 percent shooting and 26 turnovers in the teams' regular-season meeting, but UConn won, 52-42. In the Big East tournament, the Lady Hoyas held superstar senior forward Maya Moore to six points but couldn't keep the rest of the team in check and lost, 59-43.
However, the two games give the Blue and Gray extensive firsthand experience in dealing with Connecticut, a luxury they would not enjoy against other No. 1 seeds. The losses also came during a cold streak for the team and for Rodgers in particular, and as anyone who has watched the tournament knows, the Lady Hoyas are anything but cold right now.
"We're very familiar with UConn," Williams-Flournoy said. "We play in the Big East with UConn. It's almost like, with most teams you don't have the time to compare because you only have a few days. But it's UConn, we know what they're going to do, we know the players. It's a familiar opponent."
Watching the players during post-practice interviews Thursday, one would never have known Thursday that they are set to face the nation's premier team in the Sweet 16 this weekend. McNutt conducted mock television interviews with Rodgers, Magee and junior guard Rubylee Wright as junior guard and bench sparkplug Alexa Roche shot around casually.
But don't mistake their bubbly attitude for a loss of focus.
"We're David. UConn's Goliath. We want to take them out," McNutt said.