After Georgia Tech’s blowout of Mercer and their NCAA-record setting defeat of Tennessee State – each win coming on its home court in Atlanta – one could be forgiven for thinking that the next chicken dinner for Georgia Tech would be the Jacksonville State Gamecocks.
The Yellow Jackets soon learned that the gamecock is for fighting and not for eating, but also proved that defense can equal offense in a 81-52 victory over Jacksonville State where 31 points came off turnovers.
"I told them that we’ve got [North] Carolina coming here on Thursday, and if you let Carolina go on a 17 to 7 run, you’re going to be down twenty points," Joseph said. "There’s no team in the ACC you can let have a 17 to 7 run and still be in the game. It’s one of the things that we can’t allow to have happen."
Georgia Tech started the game the same way they had started the previous two – playing hard defensively from the opening tip (and how many teams really fight for the opening tip like the Yellow Jackets do?) and using their height well against a shorter team. Many of Tech’s points came off of what I call "V passes", so named because the scorer’s arms are stretched inches above her defender’s to grab the pass off the height advantage.
Tech started off with a 12-0 run against the Gamecocks, but the Gamecocks were not Tennessee State. The Gamecocks were faster, and they had two seniors and two juniors to start. Jacksonville State had to depend on junior guard Brittany Wiley, who scored the first six Gamecock points, but at one point the Yellow Jackets had a 28-8 lead.
But this game would be no blowout, at least not in the first half. The Yellow Jackets could not get their perimeter game started – they missed their first nine attempts from outside the arc. Down 28-8, the Gamecocks went on a 12-0 run marked by three pointers from Wiley and sophomore guard Amanda McCarthy.
It doesn’t take much to score 12 points in a ball game: a couple of turnovers by Georgia Tech, a couple of 3-pointers by Jacksonville State, an inability of the Yellow Jackets to find the basket and a lucky basket by sophomore forward Danielle Vaughn can turn a 28-8 beating into a 30-24 close game. Georgia Tech scored the last two baskets, including a 3-pointer by freshman guard/forward Frida Fogdemark to extend the lead back to 35-24 at halftime. The Yellow Jackets would once again half to rely on sophomore guard/forward Alex Montgomery (8 points/4 rebounds in the first half) and freshman guard Tyaunna Marshall (12 points) to carry a team shooting 40 percent against an Ohio Valley Conference opponent.
After halftime, the Yellow Jackets remedied all of their woes. Before three minutes of the second half had passed Georgia Tech returned to the hard-driving defensive team they were – they had scored 17 points off turnovers in the first half – and after five Georgia Tech steals to start the first three minutes of the half, the Yellow Jackets had a 20 point lead again. They never looked back. Alex Montgomery scored twelve 2nd half points to finish with 20 points and ten rebounds, a double-double. Tyaunna Marshall would score 25 points on 11-for-16 shooting to lead all scorers, tying her career high.
Joseph had nothing but praise for how Marshall has come along this season: "I think Ty Marshall’s the best freshman that’s played here, and that’s saying a lot, considering Alex Montgomery’s probably the best player that’s ever played here. Will Ty have the same kind of work ethic and focus to be where Alex is as a senior? That’s yet to be seen, but if you’re comparing freshman to freshman, Ty Marshall’s probably the best freshman we’ve had here. She’s been the most consistent. She has the best stats. She’s scored the most points today.
"One of the things that Alex did as a freshman – this is Ty’s challenge now – is Alex was a double-figure scorer in the ACC as a freshman. Now Ty hasn’t proven that she can do that yet. But at the end of the year, I honestly believe that Ty will be one of the best freshmen if not the best freshman in the league, and the best freshman to play here."
Marshall spoke about the spotlight and her debut into ACC play. "I’m already kind of nervous, you know, the freshman jitters a little bit. It’s a whole new season now, the ACC starting off with a big ACC school - North Carolina, a school I grew up watching and loving. So I’m ready for it." Even though Marshall has been nervous during big games this year – like UConn - she feels it works to her advantage. "I produce some of my best games when I’m more nervous."
Brittany Wiley led Jacksonville state with 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting. Junior forward Brittany Manning contributed 12 rebounds and eight points to Jacksonville State’s box score, but also added five turnovers. (The team had 27 turnovers total.)
* The win was Georgia Tech’s ninth straight win and it puts the Yellow Jackets at 12-4 going into ACC play. If Georgia Tech can finish 8-6 in conference play, MaChelle Joseph will have another 20-win season that will surely put Georgia Tech into the NCAA tournament. Even a 7-7 record would get Georgia Tech there on strength of schedule.
* Of the teams in the ACC, Joseph sees North Carolina as a very similar team to Georgia Tech. "I said five years ago that I wanted our program to look like North Carolina’s and I think there are going to two teams out there that are going to look identical. They’re going to be athletic, they’re going to be quick, they’re going to trap, there’s going to run the ball up the floor and it’s going to be a terrific game."
* Joseph spoke about the need for consistent post play coming into the ACC opener against North Carolina. "We’re still searching, we’re still trying to find that right 4-5 combination that can work well together." Junior forward Chelsea Regins has done well, and sophomore forward Danielle Hamilton-Carter is still looking for her place as a starter.
Joseph also spoke of the need for most consistency out of junior center Sasha Goodlett. "Eight and eight will get it done," Joseph said of Goodlett, "we don’t need twenty and ten."