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Yellow Jacket Roundup: Quest for 40

Spoiler Alert: UNC comes up short on that quest

Digna Strautmane handles the ball against Wake Forest
Danny Karnik / Georgia Tech Athletics

ATLANTA, GEORGIA — The poor weather of late last week has dispersed, and we have been gifted a gorgeous, though crisp, weekend. Tech was all lined up for a jammed slate of sports this weekend, however, due to both COVID and said inclement weather, the actual results are much sparser. Sifting through the actual results, though, gives us some basketball, some tennis, and some track and field. It’s a short week, but certainly worth diving in, particularly into the poignant final two minutes of the women’s basketball blowout win on Sunday against North Carolina.

Women’s Basketball

Overall: 15-4 | Last Week: 2-0
Polls - AP Poll: 18 | Coaches: 18
Nerd Stuff - Massey: 27 | NET: 25

I’m not burying this lede — Lorela Cubaj took a stumble at the end of Sunday’s game against North Carolina with about two minutes left in the game. She was able to walk off after some time and with some support, but her current status is unknown. I cannot sugarcoat this: the loss of Cubaj for any amount of would be very unfortunate for Georgia Tech. Her height and reach is a centerpiece of both the offense — she is effective from all over the floor, and her shot is incredibly hard to defend because of that length — and the defense — her ability to affect and block shots is massive. It goes without saying that her rebounding ability, the original cornerstone of her game when she first got to the Flats, is similarly vital towards Tech’s plodding and bruising pace and play style. All that being said, we do not know her current status, and Tech does mildly luck out by having Boston College and Clemson as their next two games. However, Duke has been rescheduled for shortly after that, February 1, and they are having quite a year for themselves. If Cubaj is out or limited in the short term, it would be ideal for them to get through the next nine days, as they then have nearly a week off before a week with #4 NC State and RV Virginia Tech.

As for the results of the actual games, it was by and large a successful week for Georgia Tech. They played two contests on the week, leading the way with Digna Strautmane returning to Syracuse, where she had played the last few years before transferring. She finished with 9 points, but it was Nerea Hermosa and her 21 points that led the way for all scorers as Tech led wire to wire in the Carrier Dome. The Jackets absolutely dominated the boards by a 48-27 margin, and they held the Orange to 33% shooting. Meanwhile, Tech as a quiet 2-12 from three, but nearly 50% overall. The final score, somewhat surprisingly, based on those shooting numbers, was 65-55, thanks to a truckload of 26 turnovers by Tech. This has been somewhat of a theme of late, and must decrease as Tech looks towards games against schools like Louisville, NC State, Duke, and any NCAA Tournament games.

In the second game of the weekend, Tech once again won by double digits, this time holding the Tar Heels under 40 points in a home matinee on Sunday. The 55-38 margin is somewhat astonishing, given that Tech went essentially a whole quarter without making a free throw. Much like the turnover issue against Syracuse, this is another aspect that has haunted Tech this year. In games where Tech only has one (or perhaps two) of their recurring issues - poor free throws, too many three pointers on nights when they are scarce, turnovers, cold streaks in scoring - Tech is deep and versatile enough to overcome. Today, fortunately, was one of those days. It is worth noting that North Carolina came into the game ranked #20, and Tech’s defense absolutely smothered the Tar Heel offense. The Jackets once again wire to wire, and have not trailed at all since their Miami loss, while holding North Carolina below 30% shooting from the field and from three. North Carolina, for their part, helpfully also held themselves under 30% from the free throw line. Of course, the main takeaway here was the Cubaj injury, which unfortunately overshadows Sarah Bates’ dynamic play off the bench in the third to reheat the tepid offense and help Tech pull away, and Strautmane’s leading scorer status and excellence grabbing boards.

Tech will be in action this week against Boston College and in Clemson, and we will have to wait and see what the starting lineup looks like on Thursday night.

Men’s Tennis

Overall: 2-0 | Last Week: 2-0
Polls - ITA: 29

Tech, who slotted in firmly at #29 in the inaugural poll due to their consistent votes-receiving status, opened match play with two wins over regional competition this weekend. For the purposes of the ITA draft - more on that in a second - Georgia State slotted in at #63, better than expected, while The Citadel was unranked. In both contests, Tech played all courts and matches to their conclusion, and it led to some closer matches than the score otherwise might have indicated, topping State 4-3 and The Citadel 5-2.

Tech opened play against State by taking the doubles point, with #3 Andres Martin and Marcus McDaniel downing #48 Robert Grinvalds and Andrei Duarte 7-5 and Pablo Schlecher and Keshav Chopra coasting through on court 2 with a 6-2 set. In singles play, Chopra and Martin added another quick two points with easy two set wins on courts 1 and 2. Chopra is an interesting site on court 2, as he often slots in behind McDaniel, who had the singles edition off on the day. Next to finish was Schlecher, who fought off an upset in the first set by taking it 6-4 before cruising 6-1 in set two. With the match sealed and Tech up a decisive 4-0, the other courts were decided by retirement (Brandon McKinney on 6), a loss in two tight sets (freshman Angel Guerrero on 5), and a tiebreaker, rather than a third set.

In the second match of the weekend, Tech won in similarly solid fashion, however they did give up the doubles point on a forfeit to start the match. Tech did not field a third doubles team, so when The Citadel split the doubles courts, they earned the point. Similarly, Tech did not field a sixth singles player, so that point was similarly forfeited. Whether this was due to COVID, injuries, or something else, it is not clear. However, Tech went 5-0 in their other singles matches, cruising in fairly dominant fashion. Chopra was the only player in danger of even losing a set, and he was able to rally and win in two sets nonetheless.

Tech will travel to Charlottesville next weekend for their regional play in hopes of securing a berth in the ITA Indoor Nationals bracket.

Women’s Tennis

Polls - ITA: 12

Women’s Tennis was due to host Georgia Southern this Saturday at Ken Byers to open the match play spring season, but this was suspended due to health and safety protocols. It is unknown when it will be rescheduled for, if at all. Tech will be in action again next weekend as they host their region of the ITA Kickoff Weekend.

Swimming and Diving

Polls - Coaches - M: 21 | W: NR
Nerd Stuff - CAP - M: 25 | W: 41

For the second meet in a row, Tech wound up with a no contest. The Jackets were unable to compete against titan of Division II Queens University due to the tremendous weather system moving through the southeast at the end of last week. Due to freezing rains and other inclement weather, travel to Atlanta was impossible, which is unfortunate, since Queens is such an impressive team at in their division that it was at least going to be interesting to see how that translated across divisions.

In the meantime, Tech has two opportunities to get in the pool this coming weekend, with the women taking on Tulane and Arkansas on Friday, while the men join the women for a second meet in as many days when they host Gardner Webb for Senior Day. This will be the last dual meet of the season.

Track and Field

Nerd Stuff - USTFCCCA Index: First Release This Week

Tech was in action in Columbia, South Carolina this weekend at the Carolina Challenge. The Jackets had a number of top finishers, including three of the top five in the long jump, led by Taylor Grimes in first place, while Ethan Curnow won the men’s 5000 meter race. There were a number of other podium finishes on the day, and Tech will be back in action next week in Clemson for the Bob Pollack Invitational. I hope the team enjoys the Palmetto State, because they do spend nearly the entire indoor season there every winter.

This Week:

Men’s Basketball:

1/26 - Florida State
1/29 - Miami

Women’s Basketball:

1/27 - Boston College
1/30 - at Clemson

Swimming and Diving:

1/28 - Arkansas and Tulane (W)
1/29 - Gardner Webb

Indoor Track and Field:

1/28-29 - at Bob Pollock Invitational (Clemson, SC)

Men’s Tennis:

1/29-30 - at ITA Kickoff (Charlottesville, VA)

Women’s Tennis:

1/29-30 - ITA Kickoff (Ken Byers Tennis Complex)

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