WOMEN'S BASKETBALL | Strong Second Half Staves off Upset Bid
Published: Friday, November 30, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 30, 2012 01:11
For a while on Wednesday, it looked like Sugar Rodgers might be overshadowed.
The senior guard and preseason AP All-American was held to only eight points in the first half of a non-conference showdown Wednesday night against La Salle (1-5) while opposing senior guard Brittany Wilson registered 17 in the opening 20. It was Rodgers who would have the last laugh, however, as the Hoyas (5-2) came back in the second half to avoid the upset in a 69-61 victory.
The Blue and Gray, fresh off of a loss in the finals of the Cal Classic in Berkeley, Calif., started off slow, and the aggressive Explorers took an early 11-5 lead.
early 11-5 lead.
“I think we were extremely sluggish,” Head Coach Keith Brown said. “For some reason, we came out and we weren’t ready to play hard. Any time [mid-major schools] come in and have a chance to play Georgetown, they play hard. I think, because we’re a young team, we forget that sometimes.”
In the first half, La Salle managed to break down Georgetown’s pressure defense time and time again. Leading the charge was Wilson, who was 5-8 from the field in the period — including 3-4 from three — while also pulling down eight rebounds.
The normally sharp-shooting Rodgers, meanwhile, was 1-6 from beyond the arc in the period and didn’t get much help from her teammates, who combined for only 16 first-half points. As a result, the Blue and Gray went into the break trailing 36-24.
The second half, however, was a different story. The Hoyas knew that shutting down Wilson — who was averaging 20.6 points per game going in — was a priority, and they delivered, holding her to only an additional five points after the intermission.
“What they said was that as a group they wanted to hold her to 17, so I thought they did a much better job in the second half,” Brown said. “Also, our pressure started to wear her down a little bit. It’s hard to shoot threes if you’re tired.”
Rodgers, who was matched up both offensively and defensively with Wilson in various situations, didn’t see it in quite the same way.
“To be honest, I don’t even know who Brittany Wilson is,” Rodgers said. “I just went out there and played my game. I don’t worry about what the other team is doing toward me.”
The Hoyas came out in the second half knowing that to win, they would also need to get the ball into the paint more consistently, and that started with 6-foot-6 center senior Sydney Wilson.
“I say it at the beginning of every game, [and] I said it again at halftime — when we get Sydney touches, good things happen,” Brown said. “We’ve got to get her to remember that she’s [got to] just go be aggressive and dominate. If she does that, we’re going to have a chance to win some games this year.”
Georgetown had cut the lead down to six when Sydney Wilson registered her fourth personal foul, taking her out of the game. The team, however, fed off the energy she provided and tied the game four separate times without taking a lead before she was able to re-enter. Ultimately, the Hoyas outscored the Explorers in the paint 28-6 in the second half alone and 38-14 overall.
Missed free throws stalled the comeback, though, as the Blue and Gray shot only 60 percent from the line on the night, compared with 72 percent from the opposition.
“I hope it’s not a trend. We work on them every single day,” Brown said. “I think sometimes they come to the line lackadaisical. Because they’re really a good free-throw shooting team, they think they’re going to hit every single free throw. What they’ve got to do is get in there, concentrate, keep their eyes on the rim and knock them down.”
With 3:30 remaining in the game and the Blue and Gray trailing by one, Rodgers took over. She first scored a tough go-ahead layup and then made arguably the play of the game in recovering an offensive rebound off of a missed free throw, taking a hard foul and regaining her composure enough to convert her two free throws.
Rodgers registered nine points in those final four minutes, finishing with a game-high 28 points and team-high 13 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass. Junior forward Andrea White contributed 14 points, while sophomore guard Jasmine Jackson chipped in 12 of her own.
“They were just looking for me, and my teammates found me,” Rodgers said. “I was on fire, so why not keep coming back to me? I closed the game out — that’s what big-time players do in big-time ball games.”
Perhaps most notably, Rodgers played all 40 minutes for the first time in her career, and, according to Brown, Rodgers herself dismissed the notion of coming out with the score so close.
Nonetheless, after the game, the senior’s fatigue showed.
“I’m actually feeling tired,” Rodgers said. “I just went out there and played hard. My team needed me. We weren’t too good in the first half, so I needed to step up and be a captain, be a leader.”
Ultimately, Rodgers made the adjustments necessary to break down the Explorers’ box-and-one defense — which consisted of a four-man zone with a shadow on Rodgers — and ended up leading the squad to victory.
“I’ve seen it all, especially a box-and-one,” Rodgers said. “That’s old, like come on. No box-and-one, that’s disrespectful.”
Georgetown next travels across town to take on George Washington Saturday at 4 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet.