CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Even as Georgetown built a big lead, coach Terri Williams-Flournoy was never comfortable, and Fresno State proved her right by storming back.
But when things got their tightest, the defense-minded Hoyas came up with enough timely takeaways to advance once again in the NCAA tournament.
Georgetown held on to beat the Bulldogs 61-56 on Sunday in the first round of the Des Moines Regional behind 17 points from Tia Magee.
Adria Crawford and Sugar Rodgers added 11 points apiece for the fifth-seeded Hoyas (23-8), who never trailed but blew most of a 17-point lead.
They made just four field goals during the final 15½ minutes -- none in the final 6 minutes -- but forced 19 turnovers and held the Bulldogs to 7-of-29 shooting from 3-point range to improve to 4-0 in NCAA tournament openers.
"We either want to force teams to turn the ball over, or we want to force teams to play quicker than they probably really want to play," Williams-Flournoy said. "We knew Fresno State was going to shoot the 3. That's not any secret. The fact that they took only 29 was actually good, because I told my team they would take 40."
Ki-Ki Moore scored 22 points and Rosie Moult added 12 -- but was just 3 of 14 from 3-point range -- for the 12th-seeded Bulldogs (28-6). They shot 34 percent, finished with a season-low point total and remained winless in six NCAA tournament appearances.
Still, they nearly erased that huge deficit and gave themselves several chances in the final minutes. Fresno State had the ball down by a possession on three occasions in the final 3 minutes -- and turned it over each time.
"We just couldn't find that weakness (for the Hoyas) to get over the top," Fresno State coach Adrian Wiggins said.
With Georgetown up 59-56, Rodgers missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 28.3 seconds left, giving the Bulldogs one last chance.
But Taylor Thompson's pass to the corner went off teammate Bree Farley's hands and out of bounds with 17.9 seconds remaining.
"We struggled a little bit, but at the end we were able to just finish it off," Magee said.
Georgetown came in with one of the nation's best defenses, allowing an average of fewer than 52 points, but figured to be tested by a Fresno State offense that averaged 75.5 points and had been held to fewer than 60 points only twice.
For a huge chunk of the game, it was all Hoyas. They took their largest lead when Rubylee Wright hit a 3 from the corner to make it 46-29 with 15:45 to play.
But then they went cold, and that allowed the Bulldogs to rally.
Moore, the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, scored nine points during the 24-10 run that erased most of that huge deficit.
"We started limiting their second shots and also playing faster," Moore said. "We moved faster in transition and we got open looks."
She started the rally with a jumper in the lane with 15½ minutes left, hit one of her team's three 3s during that spurt and closed it with consecutive buckets from close range. Her fast-break layup pulled Fresno State to 56-53 with just under 5 minutes left.
"With Fresno State and a team that shoots 3s, they're always going to be in the game," Williams-Flournoy said.
Madison Parrish added 10 points -- all on free throws -- for the Bulldogs.
"I think we've got confidence that we can play up with teams like Georgetown," Moult said.
Georgetown entered the tournament on a two-game losing streak that included a loss to West Virginia in the Big East quarterfinals in which the Hoyas managed just 32 points.
They had more than that by halftime of this one, despite missing 13 of 14 shots over an 8-minute period.
Rodgers gave Georgetown its first double-figure lead when she buried a 3-pointer from the corner with about 20 seconds left before the break to make it 33-21.