Huskies Tip Hoyas With Late Comeback
UConn 68, Georgetown 63
Published: Monday, March 28, 2011
Updated: Monday, March 28, 2011 03:03
PHILADELPHIA — It's possible to overcome a cold spell and still win against most teams. Just not against UConn.
Fifth-seeded Georgetown (24-11) blew a seven-point lead late in the second half and fell to No. 1-overall seed and defending champion Connecticut (35-1) in the third round of the NCAA tournament Sunday, 68-63. UConn senior forward Maya Moore had 23 points and 14 rebounds in the victory, netting several crucial baskets for the Huskies down the stretch.
"I like the way we fought back and took the game. We didn't have it given to us," Connecticut Head Coach Geno Auriemma said. "My players are not in these situations very often, so it's really good to be tested. … Today, I think we found out a lot about our team that maybe we didn't know about ourselves."
The Lady Hoyas led for most of the contest despite the shooting woes of sophomore guard Sugar Rodgers, who went 3-of-17 from the field for a meager 11 points. Senior guard Monica McNutt picked up the slack in her final game as a Hoya, hitting five three-pointers on her way to a 17-point night.
"Unfortunately for Georgetown University, it's not good when Sugar doesn't have a good night," Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "But I think Monica McNutt and I think Tia Magee stepped up with some of the scoring that Sugar had been giving us, especially in the last two games."
The Blue and Gray jumped out to an early lead but not in their usual manner. Terri Williams-Flournoy opted to use half- and three-quarter-court presses against UConn rather than the chaotic end-to-end pressure she had favored in recent games. Despite the lack of an intense press, the zone effectively shut down the Huskies' half-court offense in the first half, and the Lady Hoyas kept up their hot shooting from beyond the arc.
"This is where it catches up to you when you don't have some experienced players in the backcourt," Auriemma said. "We made a couple mistakes getting out on three-point shooters, and then we made a couple mistakes on offense. And they're a really good team, and a hard team to play against for anybody, not just us."
Georgetown wisely exploited a serious mismatch in the middle, where 6-foot-5 UConn freshman Stefanie Dolson was guarding the much quicker Tia Magee. However, Auriemma switched to a small lineup mid-second half, with senior guard Lorin Dixon at the point and Moore at center.
"He had to take Dolson out," Williams-Flournoys said. "Tia Magee was absolutely killing her. … Taking her to the basket, shooting the three. So he decided to go smaller, putting Dixon in the game."
The lineup change not only gave the Huskies much more favorable matchups with the Lady Hoyas but also allowed them to play an extended zone defense and score in transition. Dixon, in particular, gave Georgetown fits with her defense, coming up with four steals on her own and tipping several passes.
"We try to cause a little more disruption with Lorin on the top and me in the middle," Moore said. "We try to really set the tone in there. We got a lot of deflections, and Lorin did a great job getting a steal and a layup that really sparked us from that point on through the end of the game."
Frazzled by the new defensive look, the Lady Hoyas went nearly eight minutes in the second half without a field goal. During that stretch, UConn erased a seven-point deficit and eventually took the lead on a Dixon jumper. Moore was instrumental, scoring 10 of her 23 points in the Huskies' 23-12 game-ending run.
"That was the segment where we just couldn't get a basket to fall," Magee said. "We couldn't get a layup, a shot, and then they just turned it on and we couldn't react."
Georgetown attempted a late rally, coming within four points with 16 seconds to play. But Rodgers's three-pointer that would have made it a one-point game rimmed out, and Moore hit two foul shots to seal the deal.
The Lady Hoyas will surely kick themselves over their own free throw shooting; they shot only 5-of-10 from the charity stripe in a game decided by five points. UConn shot 12-of-17 — not glamorous, but much better than 50 percent.
Williams-Flournoy was proud of her team for nearly defeating the No. 1 Huskies and pointed out that the game could change the perception of Georgetown basketball for good.
"I think this is one of the best games that I've seen my players play in a long time," Williams-Flournoy said. "We will never be the underdog ever again."
McNutt, who was remarkably composed after losing her final game as a college basketball player, was still quick to point out that she is no longer satisfied with simply a good effort.
"In case you haven't noticed, our program is on the rise," McNutt said. "I'm extremely proud of the coaching staff and the girls I've had the opportunity to play with, but we're past moral victories. We should be in the Elite Eight."