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Yellow Jacket Roundup: Has Good News and Bad News

Women’s Basketball goes 1 and 1

Fighting for a loose ball against Virginia.
Georgia Tech Athletics/Danny Karnik

SOMEWHERE OVER EVANSVILLE, INDIANA - Forgive me for my half-absence this week, fair readers of Yellow Jacket Roundup. This is not a travel blog, and it is most certainly not all about me, so I’ll spare the details that sent me off the grid for four days, but, since it is the beginning of the semester, I figure we’ll start this one similar to how we started the last one.

I can tell it’s Evansville about 35,000 feet below me fairly easily, by now. There’s the airport outside of the city, which hugs the muddy, wintry banks of the Ohio River around the longer northern side of a curve that can only be described as the hairpin-est of hairpin turns. I’ve made this trip enough times to pick out every monument between Lake Michigan and Lake Lanier.

Somewhere down there, there’s a small school, at least by our Atlantic, coastal standards. Sure, we of sports-crazed attention know that they recently visited the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena - of course, that’s a given, since the gentlemen of the Bluegrass State won’t even deign to drop by McCamish Pavilion for the return leg of our home-and-nearby - and won, something that our boys in gold couldn’t pull off shortly after finals week ended. But they’ve long been a school, specifically a basketball team that has loomed large in my sporting existence, so I’m rather familiar with their story.

In their time and place, the Purple Aces were the lifeblood of the city of Evansville in a way that would put the most collegiate college towns of the Southeastern Conference to shame. As I’ve come to appreciate more this break, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Chicago or Atlanta, it is absolutely impossible to parallel that in a big city. But, whether you’re in Peoria or Carbondale, it absolutely is in smaller towns. If you couldn’t tell, I’m a Rust Belt boy at heart. I won’t dive into the tragedy that they’ve endured over the years. That’s a longer story that would take us even further from the point of this weekly feature - talking about the exploits of Tech’s non-revenue sports, or, this week, how women’s basketball has been doing. Spoiler alert, there’s some pretty good news. But we’ll get to that.

The thing they have that is so outward, so present, and so obvious, is a sense of home and community. Sure, the same thing could be said for Bradley or Georgia Tech or whomever I would be far more of a blatant homer about if I were to bring them up, because it’s true in the Missouri Valley, the Atlantic Coast, or any other conference across the country. I guess this would be shorter put as “real recognizes real.” But even that oversimplifies the point.

Georgia Tech is a home and a community. Whether you’re a student, alum, fan, staff, faculty, or just interested peruser of this corner of the internet, what we share with each other and the rest of the greater public at large is the bonds we build within our own and with the world, be they through academics, research, development, or, in this space, commonly sports. We are bonded to this Institute and these institutions because of the ties that bind, because of shared loves and experiences, because of the people known intimately and only via the big screen or because of the logo on their shirt when they pass in the airport.

That’s what’s obvious in Evansville. And that’s what’s obvious at O’Keefe Gymnasium when it’s a million degrees, louder than standing at the fence at Maho Beach, packed to the rafters or when Georgia Tech Hockey takes the ice anywhere from Marietta to Savannah. It’s what happens when you run into the women’s basketball team at the airport or start talking to a stranger because they have on a nifty shirt or because you’re wearing the same scarf you bought from the Reck Club outside a football game.

What matters the most about sports is the community.

I had planned to write this when I usually do, after the Sunday afternoon volleyball, women’s basketball, or softball games, depending on the season. I was also not planning to be philosophical, but here we are, waxing poetic six miles above Chattanooga. Such is life. It felt important. In fact, I knew it would be a great flight when the flight attendant welcomed us, fully earnest and excited, to this flight to “the ATL.” Sent a shiver down my spine. I’ve felt off-kilter all break. Suddenly, things feel back to normal. It seems to be a sense of coming home.

What matters most about Tech at large is the community, no matter how you find it. It’s that sense of home.

Women’s Basketball

Tech (11 - 2) upsets no. 23 Miami (9 - 4), 61-54
Tech (11 - 3) falls to Wake Forest (9 - 5), 65-60

Tech didn’t lead until nearly halfway through the fourth quarter on Thursday. In fact, they trailed for the majority of the game against the Miami Hurricanes, who entered the game ranked no. 23 in the nation, and the deficit as the clock started in the final frame sat at a rather large eleven, in a game that was a low-scoring contest, up to that point. Though the Jackets had battled back from down as many as sixteen points, something was going to have to change for Tech to salvage the strong defensive effort. However, change it did, for a team that had scored just 31 points in the first 30 minutes of the game. The Jackets exploded for 30 points in the quarter, to just 12 allowed. The final score was 61-54, though the seven point margin is deceptively large. It wasn’t pure domination that did it for Tech, as despite a leading by as many as 10 points, the Hurricanes were never out of the game, drawing back within 3 points as the clock wound down. However, 41.1% shooting and a solid day on the boards, with star performances from Jasmine Carson, Lotta-Maj Lahtinen, and Lorela Cubaj, who finished with a double double, were more than enough, in the end, to balance off the slow start and the pedestrian day at the free throw line.

The story wasn’t as redemptive on Sunday, as Tech couldn’t quite overcome their deficit on the road in Winston-Salem. Their opponents’ prowess beyond the arc resulted in a rain of threes and they were excellent from the line, something the Jackets could use a little improvement in, despite a solid showing today. However, as they have time and time again, Tech showed a lot of fight to get back in the game and, as a result, the second and third quarters were tightly fought. But, in the end, it was a game of runs, and Wake’s big run, a ten point string at the beginning of the fourth, was the last one. Cubaj, Carson, Lahtinen, and Kierra Fletcher found their way to double figures - the balance on offense has been great this year - but, in the end, they came up a few points short.

This week: The Jackets hit the road for a midweek trip to Tallahassee and then head on back to Atlanta for the Sunday matinee against Clemson.

For men’s basketball coverage:

well, something happened in Chapel Hill

This Week on the Flats:

BOLD for home, REGULAR for away, ITALIC for time and location

Monday: OFF

Tuesday: OFF

Men’s Basketball vs. Duke
9:00 PM, McCamish Pavilion, ACC Network and the IMG Georgia Tech Radio Network (680 AM / 93.7 FM in Atlanta)

Women’s Basketball at Florida State
7:00 PM, Tallahassee, FL, ACC Network Extra and WREK 91.1 FM

Friday: OFF

Track and Field at Orange and Purple Elite Indoor Invitational
10:00 AM, Clemson, SC

Swimming and Diving vs. Auburn
11:00 AM, McAuley Aquatic Center, ACC Network Extra

Women’s Tennis vs. Kennesaw State (doubleheader)
12:00 PM, Ken Byers Tennis Complex

Men’s Basketball at Boston College
6:00 PM, Chestnut Hill, MA, ACC Network and the IMG Georgia Tech Radio Network (680 AM / 93.7 FM in Atlanta)

Men’s Tennis vs. Georgia Southern
11:00 AM, Ken Byers Tennis Complex

Women’s Basketball vs. Clemson
2:00 PM, McCamish Pavilion, ACC Network Extra and WREK 91.1 FM