PHILADELPHIA —- The end of Georgetown’s run in the NCAA women’s tournament —- in the form of a 68-63 loss to Connecticut at the Liacouras Center on Sunday —- also closed out the career of one of the month’s breakout personalities.
That would be Monica McNutt, the outspoken and self-sure senior guard who talked a big game the last two weeks and played an even larger one for the Hoyas.
(Quick aside: It’s safe to say McNutt was talking a big game for much longer than the last two weeks. It’s just a lot of folks —- myself included —- didn’t find out until just recently. And that’s a shame).
In many ways, she was perfect for Georgetown (24-11), which reached its first regional semifinal since 1993 after dispatching Princeton and ripping Maryland in College Park last week. McNutt wasn’t bashful, but not necessarily boastful, either. Essentially, she stuck up for a rising program fueled primarily by younger players, refusing neither to back down nor apologize along the way.
From an outside perspective, it’s refreshing to see someone so certain of themselves who not only comfortable enough to say what is on their mind, but also encouraged to do so. It also meant a ton to the Hoyas: An authentic personality who helped steer a growing program in the right direction.
“She keeps these girls on track for everything,” Georgetown coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “She’s the one making the phone call, she’s the one grabbing the kids and making them come to the gym when they don’t want to come to the gym on the day off. She’s been a leader for this team and we’re truly, truly going to miss Monica McNutt. I know I’m going to miss her. As you guys can see, she has an air about her, she has a confidence about her. All of that trickles down to our team and they walk with the same swagger Monica McNutt walks with.”
To be sure, the last week included enough McNutt moments to fill multiple notebooks. She talked Tuesday about how her father observed she had “diarrhea of the mouth” heading into a second-round date with Maryland —- and then noted she and her teammates backed it up. She rather casually observed her first season at Georgetown, when the Hoyas went 15-14, left her with little interest in wearing her team gear around campus.
And as she left the podium on Sunday after scoring 17 points, she mentioned she’d take any help she could get from the assembled reporters since “I want to be on your side” after graduation in some media capacity.
McNutt averaged 10.3 points entering Sunday, second on the Hoyas’ roster behind sophomore star Sugar Rodgers. Yet even though the Hoyas return everyone else next season, Georgetown could struggle to replace precisely what she provided the last few seasons as it reached consecutive NCAA tournaments for the first time.
“She’s always that motivator,” forward Tia Magee said. “She’s always there to pat you on the back and tell you you’re going to be OK. When nobody wants to practice and nobody wants to do what we’re supposed to do, she’s always that person to tell you ‘Come on, y’all, let’s just do it.’ She’s been such an inspiration to me. … It’s not easy leading this team at all, but she’s such a strong person. She’s so intelligent. She inspires me so much.”
—- Patrick Stevens