In NCAA women's tournament, Georgetown faces tall order against Baylor

By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 22, 2010

BERKELEY, CALIF. -- The Georgetown women face a tall task on Monday night in their NCAA tournament South Region second-round game at Haas Pavilion. The fifth-seeded Hoyas must contend with Brittney Griner, Baylor's 6-foot-8 freshman center.

Griner is a shot-blocking, dunking phenom for the fourth-seeded Bears (24-9). The Big 12 freshman of the year boasts a 7-4 wing span. She has blocked more shots (185) than 324 of the 332 Division I teams, and she has dunked four times in games. Three times, she has recorded triple-doubles in blocked shots, rebounds and points.

For the undersize Hoyas (26-6), whose tallest starter is 6-2, going against Griner is going to be a challenge.

"She's taller than my dad, and my dad's 6-7," said senior forward Jaleesa Butler, one of Georgetown's post players who will go head-to-head, or in this case, head-to-shoulder with Griner. "She's very, very big. Opposed to me and Tia [Magee], we're small."

Magee is the Hoyas' tallest starter, and she's six inches shorter than Griner. Butler stands 6 feet. The pair have faced a bevy of talented centers in the Big East this season -- Connecticut 6-4 senior Tina Charles, Pittsburgh 6-6 sophomore Pepper Wilson, South Florida 6-3 senior Jessica Lawson, West Virginia 6-4 freshman Asya Bussie and Syracuse 6-4 freshman Kayla Alexander -- but nobody like Griner. Still, they will try to use what they've learned against those players to help them against Griner.

"What we try to do is stay in front of the girl, have a lot of backside help," Magee said. "Of course, it's always hard, but we try to work it out."

Georgetown will look to negate its height disadvantage with its speed.

"Baylor is a tough matchup for us inside, but I also think we're also a tough matchup trying to go against our press," Georgetown Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said.

The Hoyas' press, which has forced their opponents into an average of 24.1 turnovers per game, can take Griner out of the game by not allowing the Bears' guards to get her the ball.

"If we can't get a steal, we want them to come down in the half court with about 10 to 12 seconds to run their offense," said Georgetown guard Monica McNutt (Holy Cross), a junior. "We know that is going to be key to this game. We don't want to wear our post players out trying to bang with a 6-8 post player. If we can frustrate their guards and cause them to make silly mistakes or turnovers, it saves everybody."

Even if Georgetown can limit her opportunities on offense, Griner still poses a threat defensively with her shot-blocking.

"We're looking to just take it at her," Butler said. "That's the only thing you can do. You can't show any fear."

Georgetown and Baylor share a number of similarities. They are both young teams: The Bears have nine freshmen and sophomores on their roster, while the Hoyas have 10 freshmen and sophomores. Their top scorers are freshmen: Griner leads Baylor with 18.8 points per game, while guard Sugar Rodgers leads Georgetown with 17.8 points per game.

And they both are extremely competitive, some would say to a fault. Both Baylor and Georgetown were involved in notorious incidents this season. Griner was suspended for two games after throwing a punch at Texas Tech's Jordan Barncastle. Two Georgetown players, Kenya Kirkland and Tia McBride, were suspended after a pregame altercation with Louisville players led to a brawl in which punches were thrown.

"It's unfortunate some of the events that we've seen transpire in the women's game, but don't get it twisted: We are extremely competitive," McNutt said. "Everybody has worked extremely hard and is extremely dedicated and nobody wants to lose. Sometimes you don't always have the handle on your emotions like you think you do and things happen, but I think it's all about competition."

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