The fifth-seeded Georgetown women’s basketball team (16-12, 9-9 Big East) is set to face off against the fourth-seeded St. John’s Red Storm (20-9, 11-7 Big East) in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament this Sunday in Chicago.
The two teams have already met twice this season. St. John’s came out on top in both earlier matchups, beating Georgetown by a five-point margin in January and then earning an eight-point victory one month later.
“I feel like the first two times we played [St. John’s] we didn’t play at our best. Now we have watched film and we know everything we did wrong so we can fix it,” freshman guard Dionna White said.
Georgetown has exceeded expectations during the regular season. Projected to finish seventh in the conference by the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Hoyas’ fifth-place ranking and first-round bye in the postseason tournament is an impressive feat for a team that finished 4-27 last year.
The Hoyas have distinguished themselves as one of the most improved teams in the country, having already increased their win total from last year by 12 games — the third-most in Division I. This season, there are nine teams in Division I that have increased with win improvements of at least 11 games — Georgetown is the only one with a strength-of-schedule ranking in the top 100.
“We knew what was in the team. Other people may not know and people will tell you you’re good, you’re bad, indifferent, but I think with our players, it’s their hard work. It’s what they brought everyday. There were games that could have gone either way and we could have been an even higher seed,” Head Coach Natasha Adair said.
St. John’s, on the other hand, did not manage to live up to the expectations set by the Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Red Storm were projected to finish second in the conference, but ultimately finished behind No. 19 DePaul (24-7, 16-2 Big East), Villanova (19-10, 12-6 Big East) and Seton Hall (22-7, 12-6 Big East).
The Red Storm will not have the advantage of bringing momentum with them into the matchup with the Hoyas. Instead, St. John’s will enter Sunday’s game with the hope of bouncing back from the 64-57 loss to Creighton (14-16, 8-10 Big East) it suffered in its final regular season game.
The Hoyas will come into Sunday’s contest having closed out the regular season with two convincing wins over conference rivals Butler (9-20, 4-14 Big East) and Xavier (17-12, 8-10 Big East). The Hoyas downed the Bulldogs 49-35 before beating the Musketeers by a 12-point margin.
“Winning those two games was big,” sophomore guard Dorothy Adomako said. “I just think that it’s great. It gives us more confidence knowing that we are right there.”
Adair echoed Adomako’s sentiment.
“To be sitting at fifth when before the Butler and Xavier games, we were in seventh, and it was a matter of getting those two wins and finishing out the season with two teams that had previously beaten you — that lets you know your team is growing,” Adair said.
In the first meeting between Georgetown and St. John’s this season, the Red Storm led for 37:39 of the 40-minute contest. Going into the fourth quarter, St. John’s had an advantage of eight points. The Hoyas tried to rally in the closing minutes of the game, cutting the Red Storm’s lead to three with 58 seconds left to play. However, clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch by St. John’s prevented Georgetown from completing the comeback.
The second matchup between the two teams echoed the first. The Red Storm scored the game’s opening basket, taking a lead that they would not relinquish for the entirety of the contest. The Hoyas trailed by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter, but managed to pull within four in the final minute of play. Once again, St. John’s withstood Georgetown’s late-game pressure, closing out the contest with a 4-0 run to secure the win.
“We are going to come out ready,” Adair said. “You can’t spot any team, especially not right now because there is no room for error. You win and you advance. There are no do-overs. The good thing is we see where the games [with St. John’s] could have gone either way.”
Georgetown will need impressive performances from both White and Adomako in order to be successful against St. John’s.
In the first contest between Georgetown and St. John’s this season, White and Adomako led the way for the Hoyas. White scored a team-high 15 points to go along with seven rebounds and three assists. Adomako added 13 points and grabbed five rebounds. The sophomore also made an impact on the defensive end, finishing the game with one block and two steals.
One month later, it was White and Adomako leading the way for Georgetown once again. Adomako scored a team-high 12 points, while White chipped in nine points in addition to recording a game-high five assists and a game-high six steals.
White currently leads the team in scoring with 14.6 points per game, assists with 118 on the season, steals with 73 on the season, free-throw shooting percentage with 80.4 percent and average minutes played with 31.7 minutes per game.
“I think [White] has surprised so many people. I think people knew that it was in her, but I don’t think they realized how tough a competitor she is. She can play both sides of the ball. She was known for her defense — the fact that she can steal that ball. But she can score. She leads us in rebounding,” Adair said. “There’s nothing she can’t do.”
Adomako trails just behind White in scoring, averaging 14.4 points per game. She leads the team in rebounding, pulling down 6.3 boards per game on average. Adomako ranks second on the team in blocks with 29, free-throw shooting percentage with 77.3 percent and average minutes played with 30.9 minutes per game.
“[Adomako] wants to continue to grow and continue to be the best that she can be,” Adair said. “She is one of our tougher competitors. She is relentless out there and … she just has that competitive drive.”
For their efforts this season, White and Adomako were named to the All-Big East Second Team. White was also a unanimous selection to the Big East All-Freshman Team.
“It is always an honor when you have two players selected to the second team,” Adair said. “For me, I get excited because [Adomako and White] are the future in this league. They earned it. That also lets you know that their peers respect them. It’s just an accomplishment.”
St. John’s is not without its own individual standouts. Senior guards Danaejah Grant and Aliyyah Handford were both awarded All-Big East First Team honors. Grant leads the conference in scoring, averaging 19.7 points per game, while Handford ranks fourth, netting 16.5 points per game. Handford was also named Big East Defensive Player of the Year. She ranks second in the conference in steals with 71 on the season.
“Grant and Handford drive the bus for them,” Adair said. “They want to play downhill. They want to get to the rim. We have to do a better job containing them. You may not stop them, but it can’t be easy.”
A win over St. John’s would put Georgetown in the conference tournament semifinals, where it would face the winner of the quarterfinal game between DePaul — the first seed in the Big East — and either eighth-seeded Xavier or ninth-seeded Butler.
“We talked about playing our best ball in March and I think we are,” Adair said.
Tipoff for Sunday’s game is set for 9:30 p.m.
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.