Georgetown carried an aggressive, swashbuckling attitude into its NCAA women’s basketball round of 32 game Tuesday, thumbing its collective noses at the conventional wisdom it would likely lose to Maryland on the Terrapins’ home court.
The Hoyas left Comcast Center with a 79-57 victory, a place in the regional semifinals and bookend victories from early and late in the season against Maryland.
Sugar Rodgers scored a career-high 34 points as the sizzling fifth-seeded Hoyas (24-10) secured a date in the round of 16 for the first time since 1993 and just the second time in program history.
Georgetown will meet top-seeded Connecticut (34-1), the two-time defending national champs, in a regional semifinal in Philadelphia on Sunday. Alyssa Thomas led the Terps (24-8) with 23 points and 14 rebounds.
“I told you we weren’t scared,” coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said.
At no point did the Hoyas ever look like they were.
The Hoyas scored the first 11 points of the game, withstood a Maryland run to tie and then pushed the lead to 40-26 at the break. Rather than permitting the fourth-seeded Terps to make things interesting, Georgetown uncorked an 11-2 run out of the break to extinguish any chance Maryland might make a comeback on its home floor.
The Hoyas entered the season with an 0-8 record all-time against Maryland, but their pressure defense forced the Terps into 29 turnovers and 17.5 percent shooting in a 53-45 victory in both teams’ second game of the season.
Still, when Georgetown saw its name called on Selection Monday, it heard about how Connecticut faced a potential meeting with Maryland rather than a third game with the Hoyas in the round of 16.
“We came out with an agenda,” senior guard Monica McNutt said. “We thoroughly believe in ourselves. For some reason, we keep hearing people don’t believe in us and don’t take us seriously. Through the grapevine, we heard someone talking about how they simply played bad when they came to McDonough. Absolutely, we had a chip on our shoulder and something to prove.”
Certainly, Georgetown demonstrated the power of its defense. The Terps were limited to less than 60 points for the fifth time this season and the second time by the Hoyas.
Maryland’s numbers weren’t quite so ugly this time (20 turnovers, 31.6 percent shooting), but the Hoyas’ torrid shooting ensured a lopsided victory over Maryland.
Rodgers was 7-for-10 from 3-point range, helping the Hoyas shoot 13-for-25 from long distance and 10 of 15 in the first half.
“This young lady is an incredible player,” McNutt said. “We’ve said plenty of times in our locker room we’re glad she’s in a Georgetown uniform. There’s not too many things you can do to stop her.”
Rodgers made shots in transition and in halfcourt sets. She hit 3-pointers from the wings, the top of the key and the corners.
The how and where really didn’t matter so much as the virtual inevitability of the shot going in. Two in particular stood out: A 3-pointer off the glass as the shot clock expired late in the first half, and a pull-up 3 in transition to give the Hoyas a 51-28 edge.
“I didn’t know it was going in,” Rodgers said of the bank shot. “The one on the fast break, that’s just what I do.”
Making a deep postseason run, though, wasn’t a big part of the Hoyas’ history —- until now.
Georgetown had only one NCAA appearance before last season, when it went 26-7 and reached the second round of the tournament. Pushing further this year was a priority; doing so by running a local power with an impressive postseason pedigree off its own floor was simply something extra to savor.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Williams-Flournoy said of reaching the round of 16. “It’s hard to put your goals down when you did so much last year, so one of the main goals we wanted to do was to get past the second round. That was one of the goals we had to achieve this year because everyone said ‘You weren’t having that great of a year, your record isn’t as good as last year.’ In order to make this a different season, we had to get to the Sweet 16.”
With a career night, Rodgers helped the Hoyas get there. Now, Georgetown hopes she has a similar game in here against a Connecticut team that beat the Hoyas by 10 and 16 points in two meetings this season.
In her locker room, no doubt exists she’s capable of it. Nor is there any in College Park, not after Rodgers put an end to the Terps’ season on Tuesday.
“I said going into this game I hoped we could contain her to 30 and she gets 34,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “We tried to double and get the ball out of her hands. We tried to box-and-one. We tried to throw the kitchen sink at her and couldn’t get it done. That’s a young lady who’s spent a lot of time in the gym, and she was in a zone tonight.”
—- Patrick Stevens