Sugar Rodgers’s teammates on the Georgetown women’s basketball team often have seen their leading scorer in rhythm early, so when that happens, they’ve grown accustomed to getting out of the way. There’s no benefit, after all, in interfering with a good thing, and in Sunday’s 65-49 victory over Princeton in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the sophomore guard was positively relentless.
Rodgers was especially potent in the first half before 5,258 at Comcast Center, outscoring the 12th-seeded Tigers by herself, 16-14, on the way to a game-high 26 points. She also had game highs of eight rebounds and four assists without a turnover to send the fifth-seeded Hoyas to a second-round game against Maryland on Tuesday night.
“When Sug’s going, and really with anybody, but especially when Sug’s going, the whole team, we’re in a zone,” junior forward Tia McGee said. “It helps our defense. It helps everything. Me, personally, when I get the ball, I’m looking for Sug. If she’s hot, then get her the ball.”
The first-team all-Big East selection went 4 of 9 from three-point range, made all six of her foul shots and added a game-high three steals in 35 minutes. Rodgers finished with her most points since scoring 26 on Feb. 1 in a 76-52 win over Louisville, and her consecutive steals and three-pointers in the first half gave Georgetown a 22-5 lead with 12 minutes 10 seconds left before intermission.
Rodgers connected on another three-pointer 31 seconds before halftime to stretch the advantage to 34-14, and the Hoyas (22-10) were well on their way to their most lopsided win since beating South Florida, 67-38, on Feb. 8.
“On defense I got a couple steals, and [my teammates] found me when I was open, and I just knocked down the shots,” Rodgers said.
McGee (14 points) and junior guard Rubylee Wright (11) also scored in double figures for the Hoyas. Junior forward Adria Crawford added nine points, and senior guard Monica McNutt had three to round out the starters, who scored all but two of Georgetown’s points.
The victory put the Hoyas at the same place they were at this point last season, when they advanced to the second round after securing their first NCAA berth since 1993. Rodgers said late last week the assignment this time was to win at least one more tournament game. With efforts like Sunday’s, that’s well within reach, particularly if the press continues to rattle opponents.
Princeton (24-5) scored its fewest points of the season and committed 18 turnovers despite having concentrated on that very element in the week leading up to this game, according to Coach Courtney Banghart. Qualifying for the NCAA tournament as Ivy League champion for a second straight season, the Tigers came in averaging 14 turnovers per game and had not logged more than 17 since Jan. 29.
“To say I’m disappointed would be a gross understatement,” Banghart said. “That was not the version of Princeton basketball I’ve seen all year.”
Senior guard Addie Micir lead the Tigers with 13 points, with all three of her field goals from three-point range. No other Princeton player reached double figures. Sophomore center Megan Bowen’s nine points were the next most on the team, and junior Devona Allgood, a first-team all-Ivy League center, had eight points.
Georgetown limited Princeton to 37 percent shooting, including 6 for 21 in the first half, when the Tigers were 1 of 9 from three-point range. The Tigers shot 22 percent overall from three-point range, nearly 20 percentage points below their average.
“I thought we came out and set the tone immediately with our pressure defense, and that’s what we wanted to do,” Hoyas Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We wanted to not allow Princeton to get off because they were a team that shot the ball from the field and the three-point line, and we just wanted to set the tone and get it set right away.”