The team’s performance was a major improvement from the 2014-15 campaign during which it showed bounds of inexperience and inconsistency, ultimately finishing in last place in the conference. The team returned 10 players from that roster, four of whom — guard Katie McCormick and forwards Ki-Ke Rafiu, Logan Battle and Dominique Vitalis — were seniors last season.
It was the second year as head coach for Natasha Adair, marking the first time since the 2011-12 season that Georgetown was not playing under a first-year coach. Adair’s familiarity with the program and the players’ familiarity with her systems of play combined for strong trust and chemistry.
“Coach [Adair] brought stability, love, passion, everything that Georgetown basketball is about,” senior guard Jade Martin said. “She just really brought us together and got us to play as a team and to trust each other. She’s been a real glue for our team.”
The team found early success in non-conference play, winning five of its first six games by comfortable margins. A 57-53 battle against Memphis, in which Georgetown was within one point with 12 seconds remaining, marked the only loss during that stretch.
After leading the team in scoring her freshman year, then-sophomore guard Dorothy Adomako again proved to be a dominant force, tallying 23 points and seven rebounds in the season opener at Maryland-Eastern Shore and 19 points and six rebounds against Virginia Tech and Quinnipiac. It was only the beginning of a year in which she would earn a unanimous all-Big East Second Team selection.
However, the team’s strong start faltered when it fell on the road against a St. Bonaventure team that would go on to qualify for a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament. One week later, following a win against Delaware, Georgetown had to travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for its only Southeastern Conference matchup of the season. The Crimson Tide staged a 19-0 run en route to a 78-66 victory, dropping the Hoyas’ record to 6-3.
Conference play only brought greater challenges. The team lost six of its first eight Big East games, blowing fourth-quarter leads at Xavier and Marquette. The latter game was a particularly notable collapse, as the Hoyas allowed 61 second-half points and saw an 18-point lead become a 15-point deficit.
It was clear that the struggling team did not lack talent. In addition to Adomako’s continued success, then-freshman guard Dionna White surprised many with her scoring ability and quickly became a part of the starting lineup. In her first three conference games, she averaged 16.7 points, six rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals and was named Big East Freshman of the Week, the first of five times that she would earn that honor. She would finish as the team’s second leading scorer and she eventually joined Adomako as a unanimous all-Big East Second Team selection.
Then-senior forward Dominique Vitalis, as the only player to start each game last season and the only senior in the starting lineup, held an important on-court leadership role. She was also an active force on the glass, averaging 5.6 rebounds per game and notching two double-doubles on the season.
Then-sophomore guard DiDi Burton ran the offense at the point guard position. As a freshman in the starting role the season before, Burton’s inexperience showed in her 73 total turnovers, an average of 2.35 turnovers per game. Last season, she dropped those figures to 51 and 1.76, respectively.
Then-junior forward Faith Woodard rounded out the starting lineup with a balanced ability to shoot, defend and rebound, averaging over nine points and five rebounds per game. Off the bench, then-senior guard Katie McCormick, then-senior forward Logan Battle and then-junior guards Jade Martin and Tyshell King were regular contributors.
The team had the skill, the leadership and the drive, but the missing piece to the puzzle was the ability to finish games. In a major turning point in the season, the team found that piece.
In a road test at Villanova, the Hoyas outscored the Wildcats 11-2 in the final 3:32 of the game to eke out a 57-51 win and snap a four-game losing streak. White led the way with 20 points and 11 rebounds, her first career double-double, while Adomako and Battle finished with double-digit points. Strong free throw shooting down the stretch preserved the upset and put the Hoyas above .500 on the season, never to look back.
“[That] was when I think the light bulb came on,” Adair said. “When we [went] to Villanova and beat Villanova, [it was] something they had never experienced before. I think it was their ‘ah-ha’ moment where, [they realized], ‘Okay, we can do this.’ It just steamrolled from there,” Adair said.
Indeed, Georgetown steamrolled its next three opponents. A roaring comeback from 17-down against Marquette, a game in which Woodard and Battle each tallied 19 points, punctuated the streak.
Although the team dropped three of its next four games against the top four teams in the Big East, it closed out the regular season with convincing wins over Butler and Xavier, two teams to which it had lost early in the season.
In the first round of the Big East Tournament, No. 5 seed Georgetown was pitted against No. 4 seed St. John’s. The Red Storm, led by an eventual WNBA draft pick in guard Aliyyah Handford, were one of only two teams in the conference that the Hoyas had failed to beat during the regular season. The Blue and Gray managed to stay within striking distance until the final five minutes, but, once again, they could not stop Handford and the eventual conference champions.
“Our team was still fighting in March,” Adair said. “Still competing. Still, in my opinion, getting better. I think if we could have gone through April we would’ve even been a different team.”
However, the campaign did not have the chance to continue much further, as Georgetown’s season subsequently ended in heartbreaking fashion. In the first round of the National Invitational Tournament, Georgetown and Rutgers battled back and forth. White tied the score at 55 on a layup with just 28 seconds left, giving the Scarlet Knights the final possession of regulation. It looked like Georgetown would force overtime after the defense deflected a pass, but Rutgers then-senior forward Kahleah Copper managed to grab the loose ball and quickly score the game-winning layup with just 0.2 seconds left on the clock.
“[The players] have watched some of the clips [of that game],” Adair said. “And it left a sour taste in their mouth, and it should.”
Entering this season, the team has used last year’s devastating conclusion to channel its hunger for redemption.
“That game could have gone any way,” Adair said. “And the motivation for us now is that game. It came down to the littlest things, things that we have stressed. So when we go to practice every day that is the emphasis and we remind them of that.”
(Cover photo: Daniel Smith/The Hoya)