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Hoyas welcome another shot

Philadelphia - It was after a game one day, Monica McNutt's freshman year at Georgetown, and she remembers walking out of the gym in tears. She also recalls her exact words.

"I don't want to be a part of a losing program," she said. " It was a little bit gloomier days."

McNutt, who came from a high school program which won the Washington, D.C., city championship, was now part of a program that was 15-14 (5-11 in the Big East).

But that feeling of defeat didn't last long.

Seven freshmen, who it turns out came in with a will to win, joined the program the year after that. And the Hoyas, now in the Sweet 16 for only the second time in program history, have reached the postseason every year since.

The Hoyas (24-10), seeded fifth in the Philadelphia Regional, meet No. 1 UConn (34-1) in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament today noon, ESPN) at Temple University's Liacouras Center.

UConn has beaten Georgetown twice already, winning 52-42 on Feb. 26 at Georgetown and 59-43 on March 6 in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.

Georgetown, though, coming off a 79-57 victory on the home floor of No. 4 Maryland, fully believes it can win this game.

"Our confidence comes from one another. It definitely stems from our coaching staff," McNutt said. "From the bottom of our heart, we are not a cocky team. People said I had an attitude (after the press conferences in Maryland, during which she stated the Hoyas were not afraid of the Terps). I believe in my teammates."

During the first and second rounds, Georgetown coach Terri Williams-Flournoy pointed out that even President Barack Obama didn't believe enough in her team to pick the Hoyas over No. 12 Princeton in the first round.

"It's very disappointing when I know how hard they work for people to come in and say we can't win," Williams-Flournoy said after the win over Maryland. "It goes back to what we always tell our players: believe in God, believe in ourselves and everything else will follow."

Said McNutt that same day: "I think in our league teams respect one another and I think UConn respects us in a certain way because we have played them tough in the past. They are humans. They are a great team; it's no secret. But they're humans. They've gone down. Why can't we be the team to take them down again?"

When Williams-Flournoy entered the interview room Saturday, she joked that she wasn't supposed to mention the team feeling slighted by the president.

"The whole Obama thing is over," junior guard Rubylee Wright said,

Now, Georgetown is here on its own merits.

The Hoyas have a pressure defense which allows just 56.1 points per game, which held UConn to a season-low 52 points and caused the Huskies 47 turnovers in two games. Meanwhile, they also have a player in sophomore guard Sugar Rodgers who believes she can score from anywhere on the court, averaging 18.9 points per game. Rodgers had a career-high 34 points against Maryland.

Following McNutt's freshman year at Georgetown, the incoming freshman class was ranked sixth in the nation by Mike Flynn's Blue Star Report. Starters Wright, Tia Magee and Adria Crawford came from that class. Rodgers, last year's Big East Freshman of the Year, came the next year.

"We are the underdog," Magee said of today's game against the Huskies. "Nobody expects us to win. A couple years ago, nobody knew Georgetown had a women's basketball team. We've never really received a lot of respect. But we put a lot of pressure on ourselves as players because we know how good we are."

Said McNutt of Georgetown's metamorphosis: "This is everything that I asked for."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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