WASHINGTON -- It's been a season of firsts for the Georgetown Hoyas. A record 16-game winning streak, and at No. 12 (No. 14 AP), their highest ranking ever. Now, there's a new superlative: Biggest win in school history.
On Saturday, the Hoyas (22-4, 11-2 Big East) knocked off Notre Dame (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) 76-66 before a record crowd of 2,417 at McDonough Arena. The win might have been a stunner nationally, but there was no enormous celebration. No rushing the court, no players jumping up and down.
Freshman Sugar Rodgers, a shy young woman who'd previously been shielded from the media, had 24 points and was allowed into the post-game interview room for the first time.
"It's big, but a ranking is just a number," Rodgers said.
Adria Crawford added 18 points and Latia Magee had 17 for the Hoyas.
Georgetown took a 45-42 lead with 14:51 remaining on a 3-pointer by Rodgers and built a 58-47 lead with 8:17 remaining. They withstood a late rally by the Irish (23-3, 10-3), who closed to 62-60 on Natalie Novesel's two free throws with 5:21 to play. Georgetown scored the game's last seven points to secure the win.
After reeling off the 16-game run, the Hoyas had lost twice in the last six games and experienced several meltdowns even in their wins.
"Our coach told us to stop panicking," Crawford said. "We're going to be OK."
Notre Dame won the NCAA championship in 2001, and before this season Georgetown had been ranked for just one week in their history, but the players downplayed the significance.
"Notre Dame was kind of like another team and another game that we had to win," Crawford said.
Hoyas coach Terri Williams-Flournoy recognized how enormous the win was.
"I do. I do. It's not only a big game because it's a ranked opponent, because we've never beaten Notre Dame before," Williams-Flournoy said. "We're supposed to beat opponents who are supposed to be better than us."
The Irish lost for just the third time in 26 meetings with the Hoyas and the first time since Jan. 7, 2004, shortly before Williams-Flournoy arrived on campus.
Ashley Barlow led Notre Dame with 21 points. Leading scorer Skylar Diggins was held to nine.
Rodgers didn't start for the first time because it was senior day, and Williams-Flournoy started seldom-used senior captain Kenya Kirkland instead. By the time Rodgers reported in, Notre Dame was leading 9-2, and then she got to work, quickly scoring 13 points and giving the Hoyas a 22-17 lead with 9:54 to play in the half.
Georgetown surrendered the lead late in the half, but Magee's layup with 1:26 to go in the half gave them a 31-30 lead, and they were ahead 33-30 at the break.
The Irish were playing their second straight game without Lindsay Schrader, the team's third leading scorer and leading rebounder, who is out because of a sprained left ankle. Without Schrader, they lost 76-71 at No. 25 St. John's on Tuesday.
After that loss, longtime coach Muffet McGraw implored her players to get mad in order to avoid the Irish's first two-game losing streak of the season. Notre Dame hasn't lost three straight games since the 2006-07 season.
"This week was critical for us, and we obviously blew it." McGraw said. "It's not where you want to be."
The Irish turned the ball over 21 times to the Hoyas' 10.
"I don't know what happened," McGraw said. "We were incredibly careless with the ball."
When the rankings come out on Monday, there's a chance for yet another first. The Hoyas could crack the Top 10 for the first time.
"It is just a number," Williams-Flournoy said. "Anything that helps us get to where we want to go, we'll take it."