(ATLANTA) – After a loss to Rutgers where Georgia Tech shot 3-for-23 in the first half and an overtime loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay where they gave up the last ten points of the game, Georgia Tech hoped to make a statement against Nebraska in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday night.
And what a statement it was, with sophomore guard Ty Marshall scoring 28 points and 13 rebounds on the way to a 73-57 win over the Cornhuskers at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
"I'm proud of the way our team responded tonight," Georgia Tech head coach MaChelle Joseph said after the win. "You always find out about people's toughness and character in adverse situations and I really felt like coming off those two tough losses, especially after that overtime loss to [Wisconsin-Green Bay]. i was really pleased by the way we came out and jumped right in to Nebraska and really took it at them the first five to ten minutes of the game."
Most of Georgia Tech’s effectiveness comes from its post game, and senior forward Sasha Goodlett was effective early on, denying Nebraska any easy points under the basket and doing the things that don’t show up in the box score as the Yellow Jackets opened up a 10-3 lead. As the Cornhuskers struggled offensively – denied the inbounds pass, or beaten on the glass, or Tech trapping and screening, or forcing Nebraska players to travel – the Yellow Jackets rolled to an 20-5 lead before ten minutes were over.
Nebraska started the game 2-for-12 and missed their first three 3-point attempts – and 3-point shooting has been a big part of the Cornhusker offense this year.
"One of the things we talked about is that I thought they have great shooters but they're a system team," Joseph said. "So their shots are coming out of their sets. That means we went to a zone and took them out of what they like to do. So their shots weren't coming out of their sets, they were shots they were having to create. That made them take shots they weren't used to taking."
But Tech racked up fouls as well as points, with two fouls by Goodlett sending her to the bench. Nebraska found itself in the bonus 11 minutes into the first half and they went 7-for-8 at the free throw line in the first half. However, sophomore Dawnn Maye and other Tech speedsters soon pushed the lead back up to 15 points. The Yellow Jackets threatened to take a 20-point lead by halftime but Nebraska managed to get its field goal percentage up to 20.7 percent (6-for-29) as Georgia Tech led 34-20 at halftime.
Nebraska finished the first half 1-for-8 from 3-point range with freshman guard Tear’a Laudermill hitting the only long ball for the visitors. Georgia Tech had 15 offensive rebounds at the break and led 33-18 in total rebounds.
In the second half the Cornhuskers were more composed, with occasional flashes of good defensive play. But with the Yellow Jackets able to put back their own shots Nebraska couldn’t break into single digits. The Cornhuskers attempted to match the physicality of the Yellow Jackets, which was a losing proposition and Georgia Tech freshman guard Sydney Wallace combined a 3-pointer with a fast break to put Tech up 50-31. With ten minutes left in the second, Georgia Tech had the luxury of a 20 points lead. Nebraska found some of its 3-point touch – they sank four in the final six minutes – but the lead was too much to overcome.
In the games against Rutgers and Wisconsin-Green Bay, Joseph felt that Georgia Tech's defense was still strong. "The thing that really bothered me was that we didn't hit a lot of shots," she said. "We saw today we missed some layups still. We were able to make some shots and get some easy layups in transition. Looking at the tape, we really talked about we were going to keep it simple and just attack on the offensive end against their man-to-man pressure. And I felt we were able to do that."
Marshall scored 18 of her 28 points in the second half. She was the only Georgia Tech player to score in double figures, with Maye and Wallace contributing nine points each. Marshall’s 28 points and 13 rebounds were not only separate career highs, but the combination was her first career double-double at Georgia Tech.
"It's a honor to me especially playing with the team I have - great point guard, great post players," Marshall said. "In San Juan we had two tough losses, but as Coach says, "It's not what happens to you, it's how you respond to it." We came out here today and that was my focus, to help my team to a win."
Was the team looking for Marshall in the second half? "I just think I made myself a presence and I moved on the floor well and ran the floor well. We have great point guards and they found me in transition. I just tried to help my team, and to help take over so we could win the game. I just tried to be that leading role on the floor."
Nebraska was led by junior guard Lindsey Moore who scored 16 points and shot 4-for-6 from 3-point range. Sophomore forward Jordan Hooper scored 15 points and 10 rebounds for the second double-double of the game.
* The loss was Nebraska’s first loss this year. They are currently 6-1 for the season.
* Sighted at the game: LaChina Robinson and head coach of the Atlanta Dream Marynell Meadors. The owners of the Dream – Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler - were honorary guest coaches for Georgia Tech. (My theory is that Meadors is on very good terms with the ownership and was here for pleasure as opposed to watching the game to scout specific players.)
* I had an informal conversation with Nora Lynn Finch, associate commissioner for the ACC. We talked about how the Big Ten/ACC Challenge is put together. Trust me, it’s not as easy as picking the names of teams out of a hat.
* Seated behind the Nebraska bench – three rows of spectators wearing Nebraska colors. The Cornhuskers must travel well, since these spectators couldn’t be local – the Nebraska roster hails overwhelmingly from west of the Mississippi.
* Tech did not shoot a first-half free throw – the Yellow Jackets had 11 free throw attempts in the game, all in the second half. (They hit seven.) Nebraska was 11-for-12 from the free throw line.
* Georgia Tech is 5-0 all time in Big Ten/ACC Challenge games.
* Both teams turned the ball over 26 times – however, GT scored 28 points off turnovers compared to just 15 from Nebraska.