Nell Fortner’s 2-0 Yellow Jacket squad took on Auburn in the return game of a home and home after losing to the Tigers last season. Auburn just came off a stellar defensive performance, forcing 31 turnovers against South Alabama. Tech was 0-4 all-time going into the game against the Tigers. The Jackets were coming off two comfortable home wins against Kennesaw State and Georgia State.
How It Happened
Fortner kept the same starting lineup from the first two games (Hermosa, Swartz, Blackshear, Jackson, Morgan). The game was defensively dominant on both sides to start. Tech came out with a 6-3 lead halfway through the first quarter coming from a couple good plays that allowed for open layups from Tonie Morgan and Bianca Jackson. After the first media timeout, Swartz put down back-to-back threes on self-created shots. Jackson on the next possession made it three in a row.
Auburn’s abysmal first quarter shooting (1-18) gave Tech a 17-5 lead after ten minutes, reinforced by eight turnovers.
The Tigers scored a couple buckets to start the second quarter, but a Swartz three and bucket from Eylia Love off the bench helped keep the lead at 12. A Love jumper at the right elbow spread the lead to 15 halfway through the quarter. Immediately after Tech turned the ball over and Jackson was called for an offensive foul. Some offensive possessions were rushed and allowed unnecessary turnovers in the quarter.
While losing the rebounding battle 25-13 (18-2 offensive rebounds), Tech’s smothering defense combined with Auburn’s poor shooting kept Tech’s lead at seven, 32-25, going into halftime. Bianca Jackson and Cameron Swartz combined for 21 of the Tech’s 32 points in the half.
Auburn completely outpaced Tech to start the second half, going on a 7-2 run that forced Fortner to call timeout only 91 seconds into the half to try and stop the bleeding. Tech would keep the lead to the 5:55 mark when Auburn called timeout, but gave Auburn multiple chances to clean up missed shots and had careless turnovers, letting the lead shrink to one at 37-36. Auburn had multiple opportunities to take the lead during the phrenetic third quarter charged by the Tiger defense but never could get there with Tech up 43-40 at the end of the quarter.
Tech went 3-19 in the third quater shooting, having open shots that weren’t going down. Similar to the Georgia State game, Swartz barely had only one three point attempt and didn’t score any points. Morgan ended up with most of the ball handling duties.
Blackshear came out after one possession in the fourth in foul trouble with four fouls, giving Love more minutes with the rest of the starters. Aicha Coulibaly at the free throw line gave Auburn the lead 44-43 with 7:47 left for their first lead of the game since early in the first. Swartz hit her first bucket of the quarter to stretch the lead to 47-44 soon after. Auburn didn’t score for a couple minutes in the middle of the quarter, giving Tech space to build a lead. After steadily increasing the lead to 55-48, Tonie Morgan landed hard on her shoulder at the 1:57 mark and was quickly taken to the locker room for evaluation.
Sydney Shaw hit a three for Auburn with 1:04 left, shrinking the lead to 55-51. Hermosa blocked a putback opportunity on Auburn’s next possession and recovered possession, forcing Auburn to start fouling with 27.8 seconds remaining in a two possession game. Tech came away with a 57-51 win.
The win moves Tech to 3-0 on the season and is an impressive win on over an Auburn team that while young, played exceptionally scrappy and made every possession a challenge for Tech. Swartz lead all scorers with 16 points. Jackson and Love both put up 12 points. Morgan with 10 points hit that mark for the first time in her young Tech career.
Both Auburn and Tech made 20 field goals, but Auburn had 26 more shot attempts than Tech who shot 40% on the day. Their 29-11 offensive rebound advantage gave Auburn many extra opportunities that let them stay in this game. From beginning to end, they continually put in the extra effort to get second chance opportunities, an energy Tech never seemed to fully match in those moments. Nerea Hermosa, Tech’s primary rebouner, only recorded seven defensive rebounds from Auburn’s 56 missed shots. 22 of Auburn’s 51 points came from second or more chance opportunities.
Only Jackson, Swartz, and Morgan attempted any three pointers for Tech, combining for 50% beyond the arc.
Tech next plays Sunday in WBB Clean Old Fashioned Hate, hosting Georgia in McCamish Pavilion at 2pm. Tickets are available or the game can be viewed on ACC Network.