When No. 5 seed Georgetown (22-8) makes its third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance in an opening round date with No. 12 seed Fresno State (28-5) Sunday afternoon, this year’s veteran squad will hope to hit the Big Dance floor with some new moves in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Blue and Gray, which had made the field just once in program history before 2010, also started out as a No. 5 seed in last season’s tournament. After defeating Princeton and Maryland in the opening weekend, the Hoyas narrowly fell to top-ranked Connecticut in the Sweet 16. This year, Georgetown finished fourth in the Big East but fell in the conference tournament quarterfinals to West Virginia, so the Hoyas are determined to send their seven-member senior class off in memorable fashion.

“We have to take it one game at a time and just focus in on it. If we take it one game at a time we’re going to get there,” senior point guard Rubylee Wright said on reaching the tournament’s late stages. “We’re good enough to be there.”

And senior forward and co-captain Tia Magee knows that finding the motivation to succeed under the bright lights won’t be a problem for her or her teammates.

“In the postseason I’ve seen the craziest looks in my teammates eyes — passion like I’ve never seen before,” she said. “We’ve played some hard basketball in the postseason …with the aura, the atmosphere and this team … we all come together.”

They’ll have to, since Fresno State, like Georgetown, is no stranger to March Madness in recent years. The Bulldogs have qualified for five successive NCAA tournament appearances. They are, however, winless in their four previous NCAA appearances. This year they claimed the Western Athletic Conference’s automatic bid by routing Louisiana Tech, 89-61, in the conference title game. The Bulldogs, led by WAC player of the year Ki-Ki Moore’s 16.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, also won the regular season league crown.

“They’re a three-point shooting team. … You’re looking at a team that makes almost 10 threes a game,” Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “They play hard, very scrappy defensive and they’re a very good team … even as small as they are, they’ll still be tough.”

Georgetown is led by junior guard and recent selection to the WBCA all-region team Sugar Rodgers, whose 18.9 points per game topped the Big East scoring charts. However, the Hoyas’ strengths lie on the defensive end, where the Blue and Gray are known for their relentless pressure, which in turn sparks their offense. Georgetown holds opponents to just 51.9 points per game by limiting them to a 33.6 percent shooting mark. The Hoyas’ opponents have reached 60 points in just five games this season.

“I think when we play loose and free on the defensive end, that’s when we play much better basketball, because then that gives us the freedom to be looser on the offensive end,” Williams-Flournoy said. “Now we’re getting steals, pushing in transition and we’re able to play our style.”

But as stifling as their defense has been, the Hoyas have been plagued by poor shooting throughout the season. Their 34.8 field goal percentage was among the Big East’s worst marks, and they were held to just 45 and 32 points in their past games — defeats against St. John’s and West Virginia, respectively.

“Consistently going hard. I think that’s our main problem, because we have a lot of talent,” Magee said. “We’ve definitely been working on scoring and not taking as many jump shots — penetrating and using our height, our strength to our advantage. We’re working towards correcting a lot of our mistakes, and I’m excited about that.”

Tipoff is set for 12:20 p.m. Sunday afternoon at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill. The winner will face the victor of the contest between No. 4 Georgia Tech and No. 13 Sacred Heart in a second-round game Tuesday.

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