In any sport, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech is a rivalry.
Georgia coach Andy Landers is a legend, but head coach MaChelle Joseph has looked at her in-state games as a chance to establish Georgia Tech as the best program in the state. But the eighth-ranked Georgia Lady Bulldogs led from start to finish, remaining undefeated at 9-0 while dealing the Yellow Jackets their fourth loss in seven games with a 60-50 victory at the McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta.
"I thought our players did a really nice job of identifying who it was with the basketball and trying to affect their strengths," Landers said.
Georgia Tech now has a two-game losing streak against their in-state rivals.
"I felt like Georgia did a great job of taking us out of our transition game," Joseph said. "Making us play in a half court game, very slow tempo. They definitely controlled the tempo of the game throughout the forty minutes. We wanted to play an uptempo running game – that’s what we want to do - and they didn’t allow us to run."
The first half was one of those insane slogs where neither team can find the basket. Georgia shot 39.3 percent for the half (11-for-28) and the Yellow Jackets were worse a miserable 20 percent (6-for-30). At the end of 11:43 in the first half, the score was just 13-4 Georgia, with Tech’s only points scored by junior guard Ty Marshall.
Players could only find a basket when they had no choice – when they were directly under the basket, and even then there were some misses. Georgia Tech didn’t have much in the way of post defense, and players like Georgia senior forward Jasmine Hassell or freshman guard/forward Shacobia Barbee could spin around any defender for an easy bucket.
"I thought the fact that they continued to switch defenses on every possession really bothered our young players," Joseph said. "That’s what top ten teams do – they take you out of what you want to do."
Freshman guard Brittany Jackson would spark an 8-0 run to close to 19-14 with 4:28 left in the first half, but Georgia would answer with a run of their own as Georgia Tech was held scoreless until halftime. The Yellow Jackets were held to just 14 points in the first half, down 27-14 at the break.
For Georgia at the half, Jasmine Hassell led with 10 points and Shacobia Barbee scored five. On the Georgia Tech side, Brittany Jackson led with six points followed by Ty Marshall with four. Junior guard Dawnn Maye and junior center Shayla Bivins combined for 0-11, with seven misses coming from Bivins.
The second half was more of the same. Neither team could spark any offense, but Georgia Tech was working hard on defense and the lack of firepower from Georgia meant that the Lady Bulldogs could not take a commanding lead.
A layup from Hassell put the Lady Bulldogs up 42-24 with 9:41 left. Freshman guard/forward Aaliyah Whiteside – who had only scored three points at Georgia’s high tide – answered back with a layup followed by a free throw and the 18 point lead would be Georgia’s strongest lead.
Landers used an interesting analogy to mark what happened near the end of the second half.
"The second half, we kind of got into a pattern at the six minute mark – ‘this is our press offense, take it, throw it there, take it, throw it there, take it, throw it…’ And we didn’t go anywhere. It was like…what are those balls on the news?...powerballs? Just popping up and down and not going anywhere.
"We weren’t advancing the ball," Landers said. "And when we get it into the half court, there would be 12, 14, 15 seconds…and they took advantage of that."
With Georgia Tech’s upperclassmen punchless, it was time for the freshmen to step up. (Maye and Blain combined for a 1-19 performance, and sophomore guard Sydney Wallace would go 0-for-7 for a 1-for-26 performance from three Yellow Jacket players.) The Yellow Jackets were still in it. With Georgia up 54-43 with 2:12 remaining, Whiteside found freshman guard Breanna McDonald under the basket. The Lady Bulldogs gave up the ball with a double-dribble, and Whiteside hit the 3-pointer from the right side of the court to close to 54-48 with 1:51 left. Suddenly, it was a game again.
"I’m just really pleased with our freshmen," Joseph said, "showing a lot of resiliency, and a lot of confidence, and poise to take those shots and make them in those kinds of situations. It bodes well for the future. And I’m not talking about next year. I’m talking about the future in ACC play; the short-term future."
Unfortunately, the Yellow Jackets would only score one more basket, a jumper from Whiteside. Georgia junior guard Khaalidah Miller hit four of four free throws in the final 32 seconds to seal the victory.
Georgia was led by Jasmine Hassell with 22 points and seven rebounds on 10-for-13 shooting. Khaalidah Miller scored 11 points for the visitors.
Hassell had been 19-for-23 against Georgia Tech over the last two games. "19-of-23? They ought to hang her picture up there in that locker," Landers said.
For Georgia Tech, Aaliyah Whiteside would be the leading scorer with 14 points. Ty Marshall added 10 points and 10 rebounds in the losing effort. Despite her two points, Dawnn Maye led both teams with eight assists.
Out of Georgia Tech’s 50 points, 25 would come from freshmen. Whiteside had 14, Brittany Jackson had six and Breanna McDonald had five.
"Twenty five of fifty points coming out of our freshmen? It’s a great sign for the future," Joseph said, "but right now we’ve just got to keep getting better every day."
It would be Hassell’s final game against Georgia Tech, barring the post-season.
"It feels good to win here my senior year," Hassell said, "and for some of our seniors on the way out."
- Georgia Tech’s last win against Georgia was on December 5, 2012, a 69-53 win in Atlanta.
- Great coaching quote from Andy Landers on managing people: "You can’t get better if not everybody’s on the same – you’ve got a ship full of people, you throw one anchor over the side and the ship stops. It doesn’t take much to slow it down. So managing everybody and making sure everybody’s paddling in the same direction and wanting to get better [is important], because I can’t make them better if they don’t want to be better."
- Joseph on the four losses: "The four losses we have are all to Top 25 teams. So we don’t have a bad loss at this point of the season. It doesn’t get any easier for us, because we turn around and go to Duke. It’s one of those things where we bit off more than we can chew with a tough, non-conference schedule. But we are getting exploited, and they are showing us our weaknesses, and we are finding out which players we can count on in difficult situations."
- Joseph on the preseason schedule: "It’s only our third time ever playing in here; it’s almost like the whole season has been away games because we haven’t been here."