WOMEN'S BASKETBALL | No. 2 ND Up Next for GU
Published: Monday, January 14, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 00:01
Coming off an 86-56 blowout loss at the hands of Syracuse, the Georgetown women’s basketball team (10-6, 1-2 Big East) faces a tough opponent in No. 2 Notre Dame (14-1, 3-0 Big East) against whom it will try to turn things around Friday in South Bend, Ind. And while the host Irish enter tonight’s contest riding a nine-game winning streak — the longest in the Big East — the Hoyas are now losers of two in a row.
“I am kind of disappointed at the Syracuse loss — I don’t think that we played as we usually play,” Head Coach Keith Brown said. “If we can play hard, I think things will take care of themselves. … In the Big East, you are going to go through these stretches. I would rather go through them early than late because if we go on a run late, we won’t even remember these [losses].”
Notre Dame, coming off of a 71-46 rout of Rutgers, boasts a strong record that includes notable wins over No. 3 Connecticut and No. 12 Purdue, with its only blemish a loss against No. 1 Baylor.
“Notre Dame is going to be Notre Dame,” Brown said. “Notre Dame is one of the best teams in the country. The stars have to be aligned, [and] all of our kids have to play well for us to come out of there with a win, because it is extremely difficult to play in South Bend.”
The matchup pits two of the premier guards of the Big East — and the country as a whole — against each other. Georgetown will once again turn to senior guard and Big East leading scorer Sugar Rodgers to set the tone, while the Irish will look to All-American senior point guard Skylar Diggins.
Rodgers currently leads the largely one-dimensional Hoyas in many statistics, averaging 25.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game thus far on the season, in addition to 52 total assists and 57 steals.
“Sugar can get 20 in her sleep. Everyone gears up to stop her,” Brown said.
Diggins likewise leads her squad in a number of key categories, including assists and scoring, but the Irish are a noticeably deeper team. Junior guard Kayla McBride, junior guard Natalie Achonwa and freshman guard Jewell Loyd are among Big East leaders in scoring, as all three average over 13 points a contest.
“[Diggins] is one of the best players, but [Notre Dame] has [a few] of the best players in the country on their team, and she is just a piece of that. I think that stopping [Diggins] is difficult, but we do a pretty good job with her,” Brown said. “She actually is not doing a whole lot of scoring right now — she is actually being [more of] a facilitator, so we just want to put a lot of pressure on her.”
Georgetown will have to control the boards — something they have struggled to do all season — against Notre Dame in order to stand a real chance. Currently, the Irish lead the Big East in rebounding margin, outrebounding their opponents by an average of 11.1 per game. The Hoyas, meanwhile, are being outrebounded by an average of 0.5 per game.
“One of the things we tell [senior center] Sydney [Wilson] is not so much score for us but just be aggressive. If she is being aggressive, she will rebound the basketball,” Brown said. “We have to get more rebounds out of Sydney. Sugar is leading us in rebounding, [and] she is doing that from the two-spot. So our bigs — everyone who goes in there — has to do a better job rebounding.”
The turnover-prone Hoyas will also have to make a note of protecting the ball against the Irish’s tough defense. Thus far this season, Notre Dame forces 22.9 turnovers per game on average, nine more than their opponents.
“I just think that we are young. If we stop being tentative and start being strong with the ball, I think [the turnovers] will take care of themselves,” Brown said. “I think sometimes they don’t want to make mistakes, and when you are trying not to make a mistake, that is when you [actually] make mistakes. We have to get to the point where we stop thinking about every single thing and start playing.”
Despite Notre Dame’s impressive resume, then, Brown said that the Blue and Gray will not be fazed.
“[I expect us to] play hard, to capitalize on their mistakes, minimize our mistakes, for us to get up and down the floor and for us to execute what we do. I am concerned about us doing what we do,” Brown said. “If we do what we do — if we defend, rebound and share the ball — we will be fine. Those things have a way of taking care of themselves.”
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. tonight in South Bend.