MaChelle Joseph assures us that she does not curse at her players.
But when Georgia Tech (3-1) found itself on its home court shooting below 20 percent at times at during a horrible first half, one might have forgiven Joseph if she had indulged herself. Good thing for the Yellow Jackets that they followed one of their worst halves of basketball with one of their best on the way to a decisive 61-37 win over Prairie View A&M (0-2).
"The first half was probably one of the worst first halves of basketball that I've ever seen us play, especially on the defensive end," Joseph said. "We were just a step slow on all of our rotations. The thing I was proud to see was how we responded in the second half. I really felt we started to play Georgia Tech basketball in the second half, which I haven't seen this year."
The Lady Panthers were determined to make a game of it early on. Junior center Sasha Goodlett, fresh from a one-game suspension, committed two early fouls within six seconds of each other and found herself bench bound. Offensively, Prairie View A & M was patient; defensively they switched to the 2-3 zone and many of Georgia Tech’s shots didn’t even get to the rim. The Lady Panthers were looking for an upset, and the shorter team was out-rebounding the taller one by a 2-1 margin in the first ten minutes of the game.
Georgia Tech shot 24 percent over the first half with the Yellow Jackets a victim of their own panic and senior guard/forward Alex Montgomery shooting 1-for-8 in the first twenty minutes. Even when Prairie View sent the Yellow Jackets to the free throw line Georgia Tech couldn’t hit. The Lady Panthers went up 16-10 at one point and the Georgia Tech players looked very much unlike themselves. With Tech down 20-15, junior guard Mo Bennett was fouled during a successful 3-point try…but missed the follow up free throw. Bennett redeemed herself with another 3-point on the last Yellow Jacket possession of the first half and Prairie View’s lead was cut to 24-23 at halftime.
The Lady Panthers only shot 34.5 percent in the first half, but Tech would have nothing to gloat about. Georgia Tech went 4-for-10 at the free throw line during the first half.
After halftime, Georgia Tech finally settled down and hit their first four free throws to take a 27-26 lead. Prairie View started the second half with five fouls early on with sophomore forward Latia Williams picking up her fourth foul almost six minutes in. The Yellow Jackets went on a 14-0 run and the Lady Panthers quickly put the Yellow Jackets into the bonus with foul trouble. Prairie View A&M was almost held to single digits in the second half as Georgia Tech found its defense, Goodlett found her jump shot and the audience marked time until the following men’s game started.
"I felt like defensively we really frustrated them," Joseph said. "Our press slowed them down then when they got in the quarter court, we had great helpside defense, and that made a big difference, and when we get the defensive boards we can run, and that's where we score our points - it's in defensive transition or off our turnovers, creating turnovers - and I thought we did a better job of that in the second half."
With four minutes left, the Yellow Jackets would be up by twenty-two. After an awful first half, it turned out to be Georgia Tech’s most decisive win this season.
Goodlett led all players with 16 points, followed by Alex Montgomery with 12 points (on 3-for-12) shooting and eight rebounds.
"[Goodlett's] teammates have a tremendous amount of confidence in her," Joseph said. "They want to give her the basketball, so when she's asking for it, they're looking for her and I just thought once she started making some shots they really started looking for her. Obviously she was on her game, and when she's on her game, she's pretty good."
It was Goodlett's first game this year scoring in double-digits. Fifteen of her sixteen points came in the second half.
"No player can go in halftime with one point and two fouls and say that they're not disappointed," Goodlett said. "But the thing is how you respond to your frustration, and I felt like I had when I came out - I had nothing to lose."
Junior guard Mo Bennett scored 10 points and freshman guard Tyaunna Marshall contributed five points and 10 rebounds to the Yellow Jackets victory.
No Prairie View A&M player broke double digits. Senior forward Robin Jones had eight points and senior guard Dominique Smith scored six points and had seven rebounds.
* Is Georgia Tech ready for Connecticut? "It's easy to get up when teams are ranked in the Top 25," Joseph said. "It's harder to get up when they're not and even though Prairie View was an NCAA tournament team, I felt that we came out flat, I thought we were looking ahead a little bit and maybe underestimated them, but we're excited with what the next week brings, and now we can put all this behind us and focus on the next task at hand, which is UConn."
* Still no word that the Sunday game against Georgia Tech is sold out. The goal is for the Yellow Jackets to sell out the UConn game. Given the performance of the men's team, the women might have a sell-out game before the men's team this year.
* As you can see, Georgia Tech is posting their post-game press conferences on YouTube. This is a fantastic idea - not only because I'm the anonymous man holding the tape recorder but because there's nothing like the immediacy of a face-to-face conversation. Most articles about women's basketball pick and choose quotes (like this one), but the video gives interested fans an opportunity to learn even more.
If you're the media director for a women's basketball program and you're not posting post-game press conferences on YouTube - even if the press conference is in a corner and a staffer asks the questions - you're missing out on a chance to connect with old fans and make new ones. I'm very happy about this development.