The most decorated women’s basketball player in Georgetown history was sitting in her coach’s office the other day reflecting on what’s left to accomplish in her final season.
Sugar Rodgers already has checked off becoming the Hoyas’ all-time scoring leader, making three consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament and, most recently, recording the program’s first triple-double. Three times she’s been named first-team all-Big East and honorable mention all-American, and this season Rodgers leads the country in scoring at 26.1 points per game.
So Rodgers is eagerly anticipating Wednesday night’s game against third-ranked Connecticut at McDonough Arena, in what may be her last encounter with the seven-time national champion.
“I need to beat them,” said Rodgers, who had 33 points on 13-for-24 shooting, 12 rebounds, 12 assists and 6 steals in Saturday’s 79-64 victory over Providence. “That’s the only team I haven’t beaten since I’ve been here. I mean, we’ve beaten everybody else.”
Rodgers has lost five times to the Huskies, including 80-38 last season in Storrs, Conn. The closest Georgetown has come to winning since Rodgers arrived was two years ago, when it led most of the way in the NCAA tournament’s round of 16 before Connecticut rallied for 68-63 win.
The last time the Hoyas (10-4, 1-0 Big East) beat their Big East nemesis was 20 years ago, 64-62, when Connecticut was in the nascent stages of becoming a preeminent program in women’s basketball under Coach Geno Auriemma.
Since then, Connecticut has won more national championships than any other school and trails Tennessee by one for all-time titles. The Huskies have advanced to 13 national semifinals, including the past five in a row, and defeated Georgetown 27 straight times.
“Breaking them down, we’ve got to hope they have a bad night of shooting,” first-year Hoyas Coach Keith Brown said. “We’ve got to hope we have a great night of shooting. The stars have got to align, but to defend them, it’s almost impossible because they’ve got so many kids that play at an extremely high level, and I think anytime you lose, you get your team’s attention.”
Brown was referring to Notre Dame’s 73-72 victory on Saturday over the then-No. 1 Huskies in Storrs, which shuffled the rankings among the country’s top five teams. In addition to Connecticut falling, reigning national champion Baylor ascended back to No. 1, and the Fighting Irish climbed from fifth to second.
The Huskies (12-1, 0-1) lost for the first time in 20 Big East openers and for the first time in 24 conference home openers despite limiting Notre Dame to 38 percent shooting. Connecticut also held senior all-American guard Skylar Diggins to 4-of-15 shooting from the field and forced the projected top-three WNBA draft pick into seven turnovers.
Behind four players averaging in double figures, Connecticut is trying to avoid opening conference play 0-2 for the first time since 1985-86, which was Auriemma’s first season at the school.
Among the Huskies’ top scorers is 6-foot-4 freshman Breanna Stewart, whose 14.8 points per game are second behind sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. Stewart is the sixth national high school player of the year to play for Connecticut following Mosqueda-Lewis, who scored a game-high 23 points in last season’s victory over Georgetown.
“They get some of the best athletes in the country to go there, and they’ve got a very, very good coach,” Brown said. “There’s a reason why he’s [U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team] coach. Geno’s Geno, and U-Conn.’s U-Conn. We’re probably catching them at a great time for them and a bad time for us because they’re probably going to be extremely upset when they walk in just because they lost to Notre Dame.”