MARISSA AMENDOLIA/THE HOYA Sophomore guard Sugar Rodgers scored 30 points Tuesday night against the Mountaineers.
Sophomore guard Sugar Rodgers scored 30 points Tuesday night against the Mountaineers.

When Georgetown needed her most, Sugar Rodgers stepped up. The scary part for the rest of the Big East? She wasn’t alone.

Rodgers displayed leadership in the clutch with a go-ahead layup and two free throws in the final minute to seal the No. 19 Lady Hoyas’ 65-60 upset of visiting No. 8 West Virginia Tuesday night. The sophomore guard shot 9-of-15 from the field and a perfect 10-of-10 from the charity stripe, racking up 30 points while playing all but three minutes of the contest.

“My teammates just found me for open shots,” Rodgers said.

But while Rodgers was unquestionably the star of the evening, all of the Georgetown starters looked excellent. The Blue and Gray came out firing on all cylinders, scoring 10 unanswered points before redshirt senior guard Korinne Campbell’s deep three put the visitors on the board. The stifling Georgetown zone press harassed an experienced Mountaineer backcourt into 23 turnovers on the night, including 11 by senior point guard Sarah Miles.

“That’s just the way that we play,” Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “There’s a tough defender up there in [senior guard] Monica McNutt — she’s long and lanky, and we trapped [Miles] a few times.”

For much of Tuesday’s game, the Lady Hoyas performed as a cohesive unit on both ends of the court — boxing out, helping on defense, taking charges, scoring in the flow of the offense and rarely forcing shots despite the unusually slow pace of the game. They shot better than 51 percent from the field against a West Virginia team that had held previous opponents to 31 percent. McNutt had 13 points and six rebounds, and junior forward Tia Magee scored nine points.

“The fact that we beat two top-10 teams just speaks to our greatness and what we can do when we’re playing well and clicking on all cylinders,” McNutt said.

The Lady Hoyas even overcame one of their biggest personal demons Tuesday night, winning the rebounding battle against the physical Mountaineers. The visitors, known for strong inside play and averaging 41 boards per game, grabbed only 17 to Georgetown’s 32.

“Rebounding is not one of our biggest strengths. It’s usually our Achilles’ heel,” Williams-Flournoy said. “But I think they really made an effort, and the guards got in there. We keep telling them that it’s team rebounding, not just the post players.”

The undersized Lady Hoyas were able shut down a bruising post presence in Mountaineer redshirt senior Madina Ali, holding the forward scoreless for the entire first half.

“She wants to bully you, push you, stuff like that. I was just trying to be tough with her,” Magee said.

While the Lady Hoyas looked impressive for much of Tuesday’s game, there is still significant room for improvement. West Virginia took advantage of the hosts’ sloppy play early in the second half, consistently scoring off of Georgetown turnovers until they built an eight-point lead with eight minutes remaining.

“Even when we got down, I thought our kids continued to fight back hard,” Williams-Flournoy said. “But like I kept telling them, it’s our defense that does it. We came down and turned the ball over way too many times, but getting so many of the defensive stops gave us an opportunity to not get so far behind.”

The starting Lady Hoya backcourt of McNutt, Rodgers and junior Rubylee Wright combined for 20 of the team’s 28 turnovers despite the fact that West Virginia had only 12 steals.

“They are defense-oriented,” McNutt said of the Mountaineers. “You have to give them credit. They did just enough to make our fingers slip a little more than usual, so that’s something we’ll continue to work on as the season goes on.”

“We just had butterfingers,” Rodgers said.

Indeed, unforced turnovers might very well have cost the Lady Hoyas the game had McNutt and Rodgers not come through with big baskets and forced key turnovers of their own late in the game.

Nevertheless, the fact that Georgetown beat a top-shelf Big East team despite so many costly turnovers should alarm coaches across the conference. Down late against a dominant defensive squad, the Lady Hoyas regained their composure and continued to make shots.

“Last year, we lost three games in-conference total,” McNutt said. “So we’re here this year. It’s go time. There’s no more holding back, I’ll be happy to get it done. There’s no excuses at this point.”

Georgetown showed Tuesday night that it can be effective even in a slow-paced half-court game. With a renewed focus on taking care of the ball, the Lady Hoyas might deserve a place among the Big East elites.

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