By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 13, 2010; D04
The last time the Georgetown women's basketball team reached the Associated Press top 25 was the first week of March 1993. The Hoyas entered the Big East tournament ranked 25th, but lost its opening-round game to Providence. They were dropped from the rankings and had not returned since.
That changed this week, when Georgetown was voted No. 24 one week after making the coaches' poll. And to prove history's sense of humor, it was the Friars that again awaited the Hoyas in their week of recognition.
Almost 17 years later, Georgetown avoided the same fate in Tuesday's 74-62 win over Providence -- although the victory did not finish as smoothly as Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy had hoped.
"You're always satisfied that it's a win, but there are things that we have to clean up," Williams-Flournoy said after watching her team get outscored in the second half. "For this game, they really just learned time-and-score situations. You got to be up, and you got to stay up. We can't let a team back in the game."
Georgetown (14-2, 3-0 Big East) controlled the score early, holding a 16-point halftime lead that swelled to 20 early in the second half. After taking a 45-25 lead, the Hoyas' offense silenced and the suffocating defense allowed oxygen.
Providence (10-6, 1-2) embarked on a 20-4 run to cut Georgetown's lead to four points as the clock neared the 10-minute mark. Williams-Flournoy called a timeout and told the team that the team's success must come on defense -- like in the first half, when Georgetown forced 16 of Providence's 21 turnovers -- and not with a quick-strike offense. The Hoyas responded with a 13-2 run to extend the game out of reach.
"We want to take 17 up to 35," said junior guard Monica McNutt, adding that games such as Tuesday's are part of the Hoyas' growth as a program. Sophomore forward Tia Magee said Georgetown must play more "intense and active" on defense, which was not the case through most of a second half in which Providence hit 61.5 percent of its field goals, including 5 of 9 from three-point range.
Although the second half was fresh in the team's mind after the game, it did not overshadow a victory that included 26 points from freshman Sugar Rodgers and a first half when the team's performance validated their national ranking.
Williams-Flournoy said she did not sense any pressure in her players' minds from the No. 24 ranking. The players acknowledged they were aware of the program's newfound respect, but did not cite it as a reason for the lackluster second half.
"I don't think it factors into our heads," Magee said. "Even though we're ranked, our coaches still tell us to play like we're the underdog. Teams are coming at you, you have a target on your back."
The Big East home opener helped draw 829 to McDonough Arena -- 20 percent more than the team's average attendance. Students showed up on the eve of the first day of classes with the lure of free pizza at halftime and a suddenly prominent basketball program. Among those in attendance were high-profile members of the Hoyas men's team.
The victory extended Georgetown's winning streak to 13 games entering Saturday's home date with Louisville, which Williams-Flournoy advertised as "pack-the-house day." Every game is a milestone for the Hoyas at this point, and Saturday provides another challenge in the unprecedented territory of extending a top 25 bid past a weekly vote.
"Only difference now," McNutt said, "is the secret is out."
-- RHODE ISLAND 59, GEORGE WASHINGTON 51: Even though the Colonials held the Rams to 33.3 percent shooting and Rhode Island's leading scorer Ashley Rivera scoreless, they lost in Kingston, R.I. Brooke Wilson grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds for GW (3-11, 0-2 Atlantic 10). The Colonials opened league play 0-2 for the first time since 1986.
Megan Shoniker scored 20 points for Rhode Island (9-8, 2-0). The Colonials missed their first eight shots and didn't make a field goal until more than eight minutes had expired in the game.
Staff reports were used in this report.