Its lead cut to two points with just over two minutes remaining, the Georgetown women's basketball team responded with an 8-0 run spurred by guards Lesley Walker and Katie Smrcka-Duffy.
Walker made a key basket and Smrcka-Duffy made all four of her free throws down the stretch to help Georgetown hold off American, 62-52, yesterday afternoon in front of 424 at Bender Arena.
The Hoyas improved to 7-3 and have won their past four games and seven of their last eight after starting the season 0-2. But ahead are games against No. 18 Duke, No. 1 Connecticut, No. 11 Notre Dame and No. 16 Rutgers.
"We just wanted to beat them," Smrcka-Duffy said. "We did not want to go into Christmas with a loss."
American fell to 6-3, and its two-game winning streak ended. Georgetown was the first of three local opponents for the Eagles, who will play at Navy on Tuesday and at George Mason on Jan. 7.
"We just kept hanging in there but we just could not make the plays when we had to," American Coach Jeff Thatcher said, "whether it was a stop on defense or lack of execution on offense."
The Eagles went on a 10-2 run, capped by a basket by junior guard Kate Miller (18 points), to pull to 54-52 with 2 minutes 5 seconds remaining in the game.
Then Walker (Wheaton), who finished with a season-high 13 points, scored on a 12-foot jump shot to push the lead to four points. After two consecutive turnovers by the Eagles, Smrcka-Duffy (game-high 19 points) converted two free throws for a 58-52 advantage with 23 seconds remaining.
On its next possession, American tried to get the ball to Miller, but the pass was too high and went out of bounds. Smrcka-Duffy converted two more free throws and fed Nathalie Bourdereau for a layup before the final buzzer.
"We weren't too organized down the stretch," Miller said. "We needed to take a breath and settle down."
Georgetown took control of the game with 7:55 remaining in the first half, taking the lead for good on Walker's basket to make the score 14-13. The basket by the sophomore guard ignited an 11-2 run by the Hoyas that pushed their lead to 23-15.
"Lesley was very aggressive offensively," Georgetown Coach Patrick Knapp said. "I think in the first half she totally destructed them defensively with flicks and tips [on passes]."
Walker scored eight of her 12 points in the first half.
"I had to step up and hopefully make some shots because we did not start off well," Walker said.
American reserve freshman guard Jaye Marolla sandwiched three-pointers around a basket by Georgetown junior Porshia Jones, pulling the Eagles to 25-21 and keeping American from being blown out with 2:32 remaining in the first half.
In the second half, the Hoyas again were ready to pull away, taking their largest lead of the game, 45-33, on a three-pointer from Jones (11 points) from the left wing with 11:15 remaining.
Miller and freshman forward Maria Werries (12 points) then scored 15 of the Eagles' next 20 points to get within two points.
"We need to get over this and get back on the winning side at Navy before we break for Christmas," Thatcher said.