GW received a taste of its own defensive medicine Saturday night, and it certainly wasn’t sweet.
In a battle of cross-town rivals, Georgetown (6-2) came out on top, defeating the host Colonials (4-3) by a final score of 70-54. Georgetown was able to achieve exactly what head coach Jonathan Tsipis’ defense has been successful at this season: forcing uncomfortable situations and continuously hounding opponents. Using a full-court press for the game’s entirety, the active Hoya defense forced 30 GW turnovers and scored 27 points off those turnovers.
“That’s the one thing Georgetown does a really good job of, is they keep coming after you,” Tsipis said. “[Georgetown head coach] Keith [Brown] has them really playing at that high level no matter what their role is offensively. They’re active, they have their hands going and they’re really going to force you into situations to make you uncomfortable.”
And the Colonials were indeed uncomfortable, playing much of the game at a frantic pace as they tried to get the ball into the half court. Even when they did successfully break the press, Georgetown's zone defense forced a barrage of over-the-head lob passes to find open teammates, disrupting GW's offensive rhythm.
Still, at the half, the score was tied 33-33, with all signs of momentum pointing to GW – despite it having given up a 10-point lead with six minutes and 27 seconds left to play in the first. The team was shooting 46.2 percent from behind the arc, in part due to graduate student forward Tara Booker, 4 for 5 from three, who scored 14 of her 20 total points in the first half.
When action began in the second half though, all that momentum and confidence immediately swung toward the Hoyas.
“They did a great job coming out of the locker room in the second half and making sure they were on the attack,” Tsipis said. “They were aggressive, they got to the free throw line, they got to the rim – and you could just see the momentum change on the aggressive nature we had in the first half.”
Georgetown erupted for a 17-4 run, finding itself with a 52-37 lead. Its press defense came out even more aggressive and exposed the flaws in GW’s offense that before had been masked by impressive first-half shooting. As shots stopped falling for the Colonials, they continued to settle for outside jumpers – unable to attack the lane and establish themselves inside. For the game, Georgetown outscored GW 32-6 in the paint, something Tsipis attributed not to the Hoya’s height advantage, but to their higher level of activity.
On the opposite end, as a team which has relied all year on pressure defense to score, GW couldn’t get anything going in transition. Despite forcing 25 Hoya turnovers, they scored only 16 points off turnovers and had a mere four fast break points. For Tsipis, this again pointed to the disparity in aggression between the teams and the performance in the two halves.
“I think it goes back to what we were able to force defensively in the first half where we got some easy baskets and transition points,” Tsipis said. “And I think that was the difference for us in the two halves. We faced a full defense almost every single time, and even after we broke the press, we got too deep into the shot clock and didn’t react well off of that.”
In addition, Georgetown more than doubled the number of GW’s free throw attempts, going 19-21 from the line. Ten of those free throws came from senior guard Sugar Rodgers, who was perfect at the charity stripe, finishing with a game-high 22 points. She was one of four Hoya players to finish with double-digit points.
With six minutes and five seconds left to play, Georgetown led by a game-high 21 points. In a last-minute effort, Tsipis went back to a full-court press of his own, and even though it caused three straight Hoya turnovers, GW’s inability to get easy buckets put an end to its hopes.
Frustrations boiled over in the game's final seconds. GW’s senior forward Shi-Heria Shipp and Georgetown’s Andrea White both received technical fouls and were ejected from the game after getting into a scrap.
“When you don’t attack the zone and find the gaps, which was the game plan going into this, you get lulled into a slow kind of pace where you’re just swinging the ball around the outside,” Booker said. “I think if we would’ve attacked the gaps a lot better, got some touches on the inside and really worked more inside-out, I think that would’ve helped us be more successful.”
Looking ahead, the Colonials have a week off to prepare for their next game against another District rival, American. Unfortunately, the team will have to do so without graduate student guard Brooke Wilson, who is confirmed to have a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season.
Tsipis said Wilson plans to petition for extra eligibility. She redshirted her freshman year while rehabbing a high school knee injury.
“You never want to see a player get hurt, but it leads to an opportunity then for other people on the floor,” Tsipis said. “They’re asking themselves to do a little bit more everyday in practice, so they’re used to that role, and that’s kind of contagious.”