ATLANTA — In a matchup of undefeateds, Georgia Tech suffered their first loss of the season to the Georgia Lady Bulldogs 66-52. Cameron Swartz led the Jackets with 15 points on 6-15 shooting, 2-9 from three. Zoesha Smith scored 21 for the Lady Bulldogs, adding 10 rebounds to complete the double-double. Four Lady Bulldogs finished in double figures.
Swartz, as is becoming custom, hit an early three to get Tech’s offense kickstarted, who held the lead for the remainder of the first quarter via an Eylia Love steal and layup, her only bucket of the game. The first quarter played out like a chaotic game of plinko. Both teams were getting underneath with no telling if the ball wound find net or not. Tech had a two point lead despite being outrebounded 16-8 in the first quarter.
Swartz started the 2nd quarter with another three, then Tonie Morgan stretched the lead to five after her own steal and layup make. Later in the quarter, Diamond Battles converted two free throws, a big turnaround after the Bulldogs started 2-10 from the line, giving UGA a 25-24 lead as part of an 11-0 run. Tech never led again the rest of the game.
“We just never got clicking in the second half” is how Fortner put it, and on both sides of the ball it was that way. UGA shot 57% in the second half and 50% from the line. Tech for their credit shot 47% in the third quarter to at least remain in striking distance. AC Carter hit a critical three to bring the Jackets within a possession at 45-42 with 2:34 left in the quarter. Tech then had a three on one breakaway opportunity to get a free layup, which Bianca Jackson missed and the Bulldogs capitalized on scoring their next possession. Tech lost the quarter by two points and went down 47-42 going into the fourth.
Eylia Love and Diamond Battles were hit with dual technical fouls two minutes in, and from that point on Tech never made it close again. Tech went down 13 points with five minutes left in the game, spiritually welcoming in garbage time without the subs coming on the floor to personify it. Swartz shot two airballs in the half that brought her total to four on the day.
Georgia had their way in the paint all day, scoring 48 of 66 points there. They pulled 20 offensive rebounds, absolutely killing any chance Tech had winning this game. Tech for the second straight game was significantly outrebounded, today 47 to 24.
On the rebounding, Fortner said, “this is two games in a row where we’ve given away way too many second chance opportunities. You’re just not gonna win a lot of games that way. There’s a degree of toughness you have to have to do that. We didn’t have that.”
“Our interior has to get tougher. We have to have at least a tougher presence. We’re going through some real growing pains. Nerea Hermosa is learning how to be the primary big down there without Lorela Cubaj. We’re not as big as we were last year. All we can do is learn from it and keep learning.”
On the other side of the court, Georgia implemented a half court double team press defensively, which put Tech’s offense all out of sorts. Multiple turnovers were commited before any cuts could happen or a rhythm was found offensively. The speed Tech wants to play at rarely came. “We just didn’t get the ball down the floor. We were going back and forth too much. We got too tired and drifted mentally,” said Fortner.
Toughness was Fortner’s theme in the postgame press conference, something she said can be better implemented in practice, but is also a mental hurdle the team will have to overcome on their own. Tech showed plenty of skill today in flashes, but not consistently or with the vigor that came so often with Lorela Cubaj’s teams.
“We just have to get better...the interesting thing about losses are, they show you your weaknesses,” said Fortner. And that’s just it. It’s still early in the season. Tech is still 4-1 going into Gulf Coast Showcase with tons to learn about themselves before ACC play begins. This team will get better and have their moments.
Georgia Tech next plays against USF on Friday, November 25 at the Gulf Coast Showcase. The game can be streamed on FloHoops.