Georgetown Keeping Winning Streak Real
But the Georgetown women have done as good of a job of managing their expectations -- of keeping one foot in front of the other, as it were -- as they have of playing the games themselves.
"We don't want to get ahead of ourselves," said junior guard Monica McNutt (right). "Yes, we're enjoying it and yes, we know this streak is moving, but each game presents its own challenges so we want to take it one game at a time."
That may sound like a big serving of coach-speak, and it is in keeping with coach Terri Williams-Flournoy's philosophy.
But so far, it's worked to date for the Hoyas (16-2 and 5-0 in the Big East), who head into Saturday's home meeting with DePaul on a two-month roll that finds them tied with Connecticut and West Virginia for the lead in the conference.
Georgetown, picked for eighth in the Big East this year just ahead of the Mountaineers, has cracked the top 20 in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls (ranked 19th and 18th, respectively).
With a roster containing only four seniors and 10 underclassmen, Williams-Flournoy thought this season might yield some progress, but things are moving a bit faster than she expected.
"Where we are right now is still somewhat of a surprise," said Williams-Flournoy, in her sixth year at Georgetown. "I knew we would be good this year. I didn't know how good we would be."
Those underclassmen, seven of whom are sophomores, have imbued the program with spunk and vigor, enough to turn around a program that has had just one 20-win season – last year's 20-14 campaign that ended in the Women's National Invitational Tournament quarterfinals – in the past 17 years.
"When you lose, it's hard," said Williams-Flournoy. "As much as you want to preach winning ... until you start winning, it's very hard to do it. Those seven freshmen last year brought in a lot of energy and desire to do well. They were like 'Why not? Why can't we do this?'"
Georgetown, which has signature road wins over Purdue and Syracuse, leads the nation in steals at 15.1 per game, a by-product of a 1-2-2 zone which kicks in around the foul line in the backcourt.
The players take so much pride in forcing steals, Williams-Flournoy said, that McNutt offered to run as punishment after their overtime win Tuesday at Cincinnati, where they only got five steals.
"The thing is, it's Monica McNutt who makes that 1-2-2 go," said Williams-Flournoy. "She's long and lanky (6-feet tall) and at the top of it. It's hard to get past her on a pass or on a dribble. She just closes up so many angles."
If the Hoyas don't pick off passes for easy transition baskets, they force their opponents to burn up valuable time before they can set up their offense. As a result, Georgetown is giving up only 58 points per contest, which ties them for 51st in the nation among the more than 330 Division I schools.
As for their own offense, the Hoyas have welcomed freshman Ta'Shauna Rodgers (right), a 5-11 guard from Suffolk, Va. Rodgers, who has been named Big East Rookie of the Week four times already, quickly cracked the starting lineup and leads the team in scoring at 18.4 points per game.
With McNutt, who hit eight three-pointers on the way to a career-high 26 points Tuesday, and senior forward Jaleesa Butler, the Hoyas, who don't have a single player taller than 6-2, have a balanced attack to go along with a sense of camaraderie.
That esprit de corps was on display last Saturday when the Hoyas and Louisville engaged in a scrap an hour before the game at McDonough Arena in Washington.
The Washington Post reported that a Hoya player allegedly tripped a Louisville player while the Cardinal were running laps around the court. According to the Post's account, words were exchanged and punches were thrown by players from both teams before the fracas was broken up.
Three players, two from Georgetown, were suspended for a game for their involvement, and while no one would comment specifically on what happened, Williams-Flournoy called the incident a "time to teach."
For McNutt, the incident reflected how closely she and her teammates have bonded.
"We're going to help-side defense. We're going to rebound for one another, we're going to encourage one another. We're going to pick one another up when we fall down. We are on a mission, and when you get this focused as a team, your attitude changes, your demeanor changes. There are things you just don't accept any more. We're on a mission."
The Hoyas close the regular season with a rugged six-game stretch that includes visits to Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Connecticut, with a home match with Notre Dame tucked in for good measure.
"Those schools are powers, but we can't get caught up with that," said McNutt. "We have to worry about Georgetown basketball and what we're doing now. The way I see it, those schools are going to be formidable and it's going to be great to beat them for the first time since I've been here, but we're the only people that can stop us at this point. Tradition doesn't matter. We're building a tradition here."