ATLANTA — After five straight games away from home, Tech returned to McCamish Pavilion riding a four-game win streak between the Gulf Coast Showcase, ACC/B1G Challenge @ Michigan State, and visit to Belmont. Half of those wins came against Belmont, who ended up being Tech’s final game in Fort Myers.
“It was really good to be back home. I think our road trip helped us grow up a little bit. We were able to play with different lineups and able to put some of those on the floor tonight,” Associate Head Coach Tasha Butts said after the game.
Today’s game was the latter half of a home-and-home with Central Michigan, beginning last year with a 74-40 win, and finishing with a 71-45 win today. Bianca Jackson topped all Jackets with 14 points on 5-9 shooting, scoring eight in the first half and six in the second. Cameron Swartz scored all eleven of her points in the first half, which included her customary early three-pointer from the left corner to get things rolling.
That three had Tech up 7-2 before Eylia Love made a pair of free throws. The Chippewas then went on a 10-2 run to earn their first and only lead of the game up 12-11 with under two minutes left in the first quarter. Jackson made two buckets after Central Michigan’s run to take back the lead that Tech held the rest of the way. The Chippewas had the lead for all of 26 seconds.
While only up 15-12 after a quarter, Tech blew the game open starting with a three-point play by Kara Dunn assisted by Raeven Boswell and then a four-point play by Swartz. Tech’s 11-0 run in a two-minute stretch ended after Bridget Utberg (Georgia native) hit a three. Tech’s 38-23 lead at half essentially made the entirety of the second half garbage time basketball.
Of value though in the second half was the plethora of minutes the bench and freshman got to play. Tonie Morgan, Inés Noguero, and Kayla Blackshear all got more than 10 minutes of playing time in the second half, allowing Swartz to play 4:35 minutes and Love 3:45 minutes.
Noguero went off in the second half, scoring 10 points with a couple threes. Coach Butts praised her basketball IQ after the game. Four Jackets ended up with 10+ points: Noguero, Jackson, Dunn, and Swartz. Blackshear’s 10 rebounds were the most of all players.
For Tech’s coaching staff, it was a game about testing lineups as previously mentioned, but also to get the half court working better.
“We wanted to work on our press a little bit more. We wanted to see different things on our half-court defense and work on some things offensively. For us, it’s always the fundamentals of the game no matter if the lead is five or fifteen...for the most part, I think we did a good job of focusing on those fundamentals,” said Butts.
This game is the final non-conference game for Tech, who have the next week off during finals. Tech finished 8-2 in the opening stretch, certainly on the high end of the range of possible outcomes. Beating Belmont twice, a team Fortner repeatedly mentioned as a tough opponent to start with. “I think this was a great game with momentum going into our first ACC game against Boston College,” Butts noted.
At the end, Tech would lead by as much as 32 points in the game. 21 of Central Michigan’s 45 points game from Tech turnovers, but only managed six second chance points.
Tech shot 42.6% on the day, and 13-14 from the free throw line, a very welcome sight after last year’s struggles.
Sydney Harris, Central Michigan’s starting forward, had one of the more wild stat lines for a blowout loss, teaching why plus/minus isn’t always the most important stat. While scoring 21 points, the most of anyone on the floor, she also was a -28 since she played 38:08 minutes. For a rough game in what is looking to be a rough season for Central Michigan (now 1-8), games like that will abound up north.
With the win, Tech is on a five game winning streak
Other Quotes by Coach Butts
“Kayla Blackshear definitely does a lot of good things for us. One of the biggest thigns is she gives us extra possessions with offensive rebounds...she really has bought into her role and is growing into her role.”
“Nerea is finally getting her groove back and understanding what this team needs from her.”
“We have high expectations of Kara and she has high expectations of herself...she’s finally getting comfortable with that.”
“Free throw shooting is about focus, that’s something we work on every single day...I thought they did a good job of doing that tonight.”
Georgia Tech next plays on Sunday, December 18 at Boston College at 1pm on Bally Sports for those in the Atlanta area.