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Georgia Tech WBB loses first one score game of the year

Shotless final possession does Tech in

L-R: Nell Fortner, Kayla Blackshear, Aixa Wone Aranaz, Kara Dunn, Bianca Jackson
Andy Mead | GT Athletics

In the ACC Tournament last season against Wake Forest, Georgia Tech women’s basketball played one of their ugliest yet defensively stout wins in recent memory, winning 45-40 before losing to Notre Dame in the 2nd round. On January 8, the Deamon Deacons and Yellow Jackets played in a very similar, low scoring game.

Jewel Spear, Wake’s overall best player and recent newcomer to the 1,000 career point club, sat out the game, breaking her 72 consecutive games-started streak. It was also Tech’s first game against Wake’s new head coach, Megan Gebbia.

For the second consecutive game, Tech head coach Nell Fortner used a freshmen heavy starting guard lineup with Kara Dunn, Inés Noguero, and Tonie Morgan while leaving Cameron Swartz and Bianca Jackson on the bench.

The game began slowly with minimal shot making until Kara Dunn hit a three, effectively kickstarting the game into gear with six minutes left in the first. The back and forth scoring the rest of the quarter finished 10-10, full of sloppy passing, three missed layups by Wake Forest, but four assists on four made baskets for Tech.

Wake went on a 7-0 run early in the second, but Tech quickly countered with a 5-0 run by Tech to reclaim 18-17 lead. The back and forth scoring continued, including three point plays by Cameron Swartz and Kara Dunn. At half, there were 14 lead changes and three ties so far. Tech finished the second quarter with an ineffective Bianca Jackson isolation play that does nothing, ending the half down 29-28. Wake made six of their last eight shots, Tech five of their last eight to finish the half.

The second half featured no field goals for first 4:49 for Tech, and only one Wake Forest field goal in the first four minutes. Tech’s first basket happened in the midst of a 6:47 Wake Forest scoring drought. Tech committed back to back offensive fouls that could’ve shifted during that stretch that with made buckets, would’ve put them up four possessions on Wake Forest. Aixa Wone Aranaz hit a turnaround jumper to to extend the lead to four, but Olivia Summiel spoiled it immediately with a three to take Tech into the final quarter with a one point lead, 39-38.

In the fourth Aranaz continued making highly skilled buckets in her 10 point showing, her most in a game since 2019 against Ohio. Like the rest of the game before, it was back and forth up to the 1:10 mark, both teams at 48 points. Elise Williams hit a free throw to put Wake up 49-48, which Swartz responded with a critical layup to make it 50-49. Kaia Harrison hit a layup and got fouled on the next possession, but missed the free throw. Tech thankfully had the possession arrow on the resulting heldball in a scrum for the ball after the miss.

The final three possessions in the final 29.6 seconds showed the grit and confounding nature of Tech women’s basketball.

Knowing they had the final possession, Tech ran clock until 11 seconds when Bianca Jackson missed a jumper from near the free throw line. The ball ended up in front of the basket where multiple attempts to get the ball up finally resulted in Swartz with the ball in the shooting act and getting fouled. Swartz, the number one free throw shooter on the team, proceeded to miss both free throws and sent Alexandria Scruggs to the line for Wake Forest.

Scruggs then proceeded to also miss both of her free throws, the second being an airball, so Fortner was able to advance the ball to half court with a timeout with 2.1 seconds remaining.

Aranaz was called on to make the game winning bucket, getting the ball right of the basket at the paint. She took three dribbles and time expired before she could get turned around to make a shot. Tears were clearly flowing from Aranaz in the seconds immediately after realizing what had happened.

Notable Numbers

  • This was the first game Tech lost while allowing 60 or fewer points (8-1). Wake Forest similarly had not lost a game in five instances where they allowed 60 or fewer points.
  • Kayla Blackshear led Tech with 16 points (career high) and 14 rebounds.
  • Bianca Jackson and Cameron Swartz were the only Tech players to score off the bench (nine combined points)

Three Thoughts

  1. This is a very different game with Jewel Spear: Not to state the obvious, but this game was without its best player. Currently 6th in the ACC in scoring and has the most made threes in the ACC. Considering both Wake and Tech were fighting in the paint for as many easy points as they could get, her consistent outside shooting would’ve changed Wake’s offensive approach. Considering how Ta’Niya Latson torched Tech a couple games ago, Spear likely would’ve a similar problem for Tech.
  2. Changing of the guard? The last two games, Bianca Jackson and Cameron Swartz have shot a combined 26% while the rest of the team has shot 43% over the same stretch. In those same two games, Fortner has used them in primary bench roles. While I haven’t asked Fortner directly about what she was hoping would come from the change or what the motivation was, it’s clear no matter what the situation is, their shooting hasn’t matched the freshman based starting five. Knowing Tech is still last in the ACC and has a very small chance of getting to the NCAA Tournament, I would strongly consider letting the freshmen start the rest of the season just to get them minutes together. They are the future of this program.
  3. Clock management: I didn’t strongly address this in the Louisville game because the freshman trio was getting a lot of minutes together for the first time. They had multiple shot clock violations or last second shots in Louisville. Today, those errors were less occurring, but it happened at the worst possible moment when Aranaz didn’t get a shot off with 2.1 seconds left. In the one moment Tech needed a shot, it didn’t happen. There’s no excuse, especially upon replay of the look Aranaz had.

Georgia Tech women’s basketball next plays Thursday, January 12 home at McCamish Pavilion. 8 p.m. on ACCN