ATLANTA — While good to see the Yellow Jackets back at home after a painful end to the two-game road trip in Winston Salem, Tech faces an uphill climb the rest of the season. Tech currently sat 14th in the ACC going into their January 12 game against Miami, ahead of only Pitt on overall record yet similarly winless in ACC play.
Tech so far is the leading free throw shooting and 3-point defensive team in the ACC, yet are last in scoring and assists (Tech is the only team to not score 1,000 points yet in the conference). Tech’s goal of being a fast paced offense that scores a lot simply hasn’t been accomplished.
“We just haven’t gotten to that point. Got to have the right talent to do that,” said Fortner about the offensive identity after the game.
Against Miami, the offense came in fits and starts while unable to stop the Hurricanes’ best players. The Cavinder twins, Haley and Hannah, and Destiny Harden combined for 38 points, equalling the number of bench points and points in the paint Miami had in their 69-60 win.
Tech had control of the game for the first two possessions, but quickly gave it away on a 12-0 Miami run in the first quarter. Cameron Swartz made her first shot attempt, but the rest of the first half was full of turnovers and looks that were slow to get a shot or any at all. Miami implemented a full court press early, which was successful in first two full court presses resulting in four points.
Fortner’s assesment of the first half was turnover based: “Turnovers were just too many, especially in the first half. [Miami] had 17 points off our turnovers in the first half, and only two in the second half. That is difference making in a ball game.”
Tech finished the first half down 40-23. Nerea Hermosa had flashes of shot making underneath the basket, but wasn’t able to string it together to maintain much time on the floor to where she didn’t play at all in the second half.
Kayla Blackshear and the rest of the freshman kept Tech in the game despite being down 17 at half. She scored 12 second half points to finish with 18, shooting 80% with 11 rebounds for her second double-double in three games. Blackshear and Dunn were the only Jackets to play over 30 minutes, 37 and 30 respectively.
Down as many as 20 in the second half but only 12 to start the fourth quarter, Tech shrank Miami’s lead to seven on a banked three-pointer by Tonie Morgan. Tech backed up by forcing a shot clock violation on the defensive end. Hanna Cavinder pickpocketed Morgan then hit a three to put Miami up 60-50 with 5:51 remaining. Tech committed four straight turnovers in the final six minutes that effectively put the game away for Miami.
“That kinda sunk us at that point,” said Fortner of that stretch. Amidst that, Fortner still was proud of the freshmen core that kept Tech in striking distance: “[I was] Really proud of how we played in the second half. We fought hard, we battled. Gave ourselves a chance to win the game.”
Three thoughts on the loss...
- Bianca Jackson’s minutes decrease: After getting benched with Cameron Swartz against Louisville and Wake Forest, Jackson’s 17:51 minutes of game time were as little as she’s played all season, and played only two minutes in the second half. Fortner on why this was: “You play the kids that are playing hard and doing the things you are asking them to do. That group in the second half was playing really hard and brought us back into the game. So, I’m gonna roll with them, that’s what this game is about.”
- Not getting quick shots and the grander offensive identity: Ultimately, the idea that this team will be a fast paced offense that gets fastbreak buckets is a fantasy. Tech had two fastbreak points against Miami and stilll play a slow, clock churning offense that Lotta-Maj Lahtinen and Lorela Cubaj mastered at points last season. Swartz and Jackson in non-conference play showed the offensive prowress we expected, but has completely faltered in ACC play.
- Lineups continue to change: In Fortner’s search for something that will work consistently, the starting lineup changed again today, with Kara Dunn starting with Jackson, Swartz, Aixa Wone Aranaz, and Blackshear. This is what Nell had to stay about the constant change in the starting five: “When you’re 0-5 going into this game, you’re searching. It’s probably gonna be that way for the rest of the year until we can nail down something. We’ll see. It could be different on Sunday...At this point, I don’t mind it. Practice has become more competitive and if you want time on the floor you gotta get it done in practice.”
Georgia Tech women’s basketball next plays Sunday, January 15 home vs. Duke at 4 p.m. TV: ACCN