(ATLANTA) – After a long wait, Georgia Tech women’s basketball is back – but back in a new location. With Alex Montgomery and Deja Foster having graduated, would the Yellow Jackets pick up where they left off at the end of the 2011 season?
Friday night’s debut against the Alabama State Hornets suggested an answer of "yes" with a 97-37 walloping at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
"Obviously, we're glad to get that first game behind us in a new arena," Georgia Tech head coach MaChelle Joseph said. "It felt like for the most part we had the opportunity to play a lot of people, get a lot of people quality minutes and just kind of get a feel for where we are at this point in the season."
It was freshman guard Sydney Wallace's introduction to the NCAA. "The first game, it's always kind of nervous. But you just settle down, just be confident and go out there and play as hard as you can play."
It might not have been the prettiest of games, but it was a win. Both teams combined for 27 personal fouls in the first half. The first real games of the season are generally sloppy affairs, but the Yellow Jackets have an excuse – this was Tech’s first game of the year. Alabama State had already played two days earlier, but they were clearly not ready for Georgia Tech, needing over 15 minutes to break into double-digits. A 3-for-22 shooting start for the Hornets didn’t help, making this game a foregone conclusion almost before it really started.
When the Yellow Jackets took a 20-point lead before ten minutes were up, it was guaranteed that we’d get a look at Georgia Tech’s touted freshman class. Sydney Wallace scored eight points in the first half in just eight minutes of play and looked very much like the acclaimed shooter she was said to be.
The second half? More of the same. The Hornets would take 26 heaves from three point range and only hit four of them. Georgia Tech hit 18 out of 23 free throws in the second half, which looked more like a free throw shooting exhibition than a basketball game. The Yellow Jackets were 29-for-41 overall from the free throw line. The constant starts and stops and the inability of Alabama State to pose a challenge made the second half very hard to watch.
One shortfall for Georgia Tech was on the boards. The Yellow Jackets only outrebounded the Hornets 49-47 despite winning by sixty points. Joseph called rebounding Tech's "Achilles heel."
"I said at ACC media day that there were two question marks about this team," Joseph said, "and the number one question mark was going to be rebounding. Alex Montgomery led the ACC in defensive rebounds. Obviously I was concerned about where that was going to come from. Deja Foster had 100 offensive rebounds three out of four years she played for. So those are two tremendous rebounders that we're trying to replace."
Junior forward Danielle Hamilton-Carter played for 22 minutes off the bench.
"Dani's really going to help this team this year. She's really improved and her confidence is at a whole another level. We have tremendous depth. Speed, quickness and depth are our strengths."
The Jackets opened up the game in the second half with runs of 15-1 and a 13-2 run to end the game. Alabama State would commit 30 personal fouls and turn the ball over 32 times.
It was playground basketball, as everyone got to play for Georgia Tech and everyone scored. Yellow Jacket sophomore guard Dawnn Maye and freshman guard Sydney Wallace led all scorers with 13 points each. Maye contributed four steals and Wallace added three to Tech’s total of 17. Senior point guard Metra Walthour added 11 points and four assists and was 6-for-6 from the foul line.
For the Hornets, freshman guard Danielle Gazaway led Alabama State with 15 points, but needed 4-for-20 shooting with four free throws to get there. Senior forward/center Millicent Jones shot 1-for-7 and fouled out and freshman guard Kierra Paige scored 7 points – but shot 1-for-13 for the night, going 1-for-11 from 3-point range.
* This is MaChelle Joseph’s ninth season at Georgia Tech, and the win gives her a 9-0 record in opening regualar season games.
* Junior center Shayla Bivins and freshman guard Sarah Hartwell will both be redshirted this year.
* Georgia Tech has new uniforms this year. The Yellow Jackets will now have their names on their jerseys. The lettering is a very thin, stylized lettering and much like WNBA players, the names will go under the numbers on the back of the jersey.
* This is a very new experience for me. The media seating is courtside, and it’s a very different game courtside than it is from television or up in the rafters.
* The Arena at Gwinnett Center is where the Yellow Jackets shall play their home games this year. During the interim, Alexander Memorial Coliseum will be refurbished and basketball will return there for the 2012-13 season. Due to the odd topography of fitting a basketball court into the arena, the seats at one end of the arena are very far away from the goal, with what seems to be twenty yards between the goal and the seats behind it.
* For those unfamiliar with Gwinnett Center, it was where the Atlanta Dream played the Detroit Shock in the 2009 playoffs, during the infamous Elmo Game where the Dream were booted out of Phillips Arena because a performance of Sesame Street Live had priority booking.
* The start of the game? A double technical foul on Georgia Tech senior forward Chelsea Regins and Alabama State junior forward RoTasha Windon away from the ball.
* The most exciting part of the back half of the game was when the little girls who wipe down the area under the basket where almost bowled over like tenpins, barely escaping a Georgia Tech fast break.
* Another freshman that saw time on the court was Slovenian forward Tjasa Gortnar. "I think that TJ is going to be a special player once she figures this all out. Not only is she overcoming the language barrier, she's trying to figure out how to play the way we play over here. She's had a little bit of a transition, but I feel that she's going to be a really good player for us in our system. She's physical; she reminds me a lot of Brigitte Ardossi - she's physical and tough and she can hit that 15 foot jump shot. I think that as the season goes on that they can really help this team."