ATLANTA — Georgia Tech Women’s Basketball ordered their defense smothered and covered, winning the 2023-2024 season debut 83-53 over the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.
The game was the second most attended in team history for games at McCamish Pavilion. 4,963 people, or kids rather, attended for the Education Day game where the team invited kids from all over the Atlanta Public School system as part of their Buzzer Readers program. The crowd of mostly kindergarten to 3rd grade kids was easily the longest continually held highest pitched noise I’ve been a part of.
Since the game was designed for kids to attend while at school, tipoff was at 11 a.m.
“I thought it was great. I enjoy the morning actually, I know it sounds crazy but a lot of the time we practice in the morning. The players are fresh, they’re used to getting up early. I think this is a great opportunity to reach out to your community and maybe inspire a bunch of young kids to want to come to Georgia Tech, play basketball, or be a coach, who knows. I like playing this game and I’m glad we’re back to doing it,” said Georgia Tech Head Coach Nell Fortner in the postgame press conference.
As for the on court performance, Kayla Blackshear and Tonie Morgan were standouts, scoring 24 and 20 points respectively, Kayla shooting 75% and Tonie 50%.
Every Yellow Jacket on the roster played today, which included new freshmen D’Asia Thomas-Harris, Rusne Augustinaite, Ariadna Termis, and Jada Bediako making their Tech debuts. Augustinaite scored 14 points with four three-pointers.
Tech played the fast offense they’ve been gunning for right from the start going up 10-0 on a bucket by Kara Dunn plus threes by Inés Noguero and Tonie Morgan.
Dunn exited the game in the first couple minutes, the team did not have an update as to what the cause was or her timetable to return.
Rusne Augustinaite was the first of the new Jackets to come on the floor, hitting a three for her first bucket of her collegiate career to put Tech up 13-2. Sydney Johnson and D’Asia Thomas-Harris also made their Tech and career debuts respectively. Tech finished the quarter leading 18-10.
Ari Termis made her career debut early in the second quarter as her, Kayla Blackshear, and Avyonce Carter covered forward duties for the majority of the quarter. Coastal cut the lead to as small as four points down 22-18 after converting a three point play, but then Tech finished out the quarter 20-6 with Thomas-Harris’ first points, a fantastic cross court driving layup by Morgan, and a highly efficient Blackshear who shot 4-4 with 10 points in the quarter, putting Tech up 42-24 at half.
Tech got into foul trouble a little earlier than they may have liked in the third quarter, putting Coastal in the bonus at the 4:36 mark. Granted, a couple of those fouls were very ticky-tack. Offensively, Tech played on cruise control letting Tonie have her way with things, scoring seven points as Tech’s lead grew to 21. Augustinaite hit her third three to reach 11 points and a Noguero steal + layup put her at 10 points en route to a 59-38 lead.
The fourth quarter was all garbage time, but it did see Augustinaite hit her fourth three another three to finish with points in her debut, along with Blackshear reaching the 20+ point mark. It was in the last five minutes that Head Coach Nell Fortner finally emptied the last of the bench, playing Anisa Clark.
Ball movement & offensive speed: This has been a focus for Tech the last couple of years knowing pace is how they can maximize Ines, Kara, and Tonie’s strengths. Initially, they were extremely fast before Coastal figured out a press that slowed down Tech’s offense, which Nell admitted after the game she did not expect to happen and didn’t gameplan for.
“We’ve gotta to a better job with our press breaker. We weren’t really expecting that so we weren’t working on that a lot. But, if people want to do that to us, we have to break the press quicker. We still want to be able to attack. You should still have some numbers even if people are going to press you to still be able to attack the glass.
Nonetheless, as the scoreboard shows, Tech adjusted were able to get plenty of offense.
Rebounding: For a blowout game, Nell was particularly displeased with the offensive rebounding. In fairness, this likely was a game where Blackshear should’ve had 10 or more rebounds. Tech was outrebounded 42-37 by the Chanticleers.
“I’m a head coach, and I see all the things that needs work...we gave up way too many offensive rebounds to Coastal Carolina. That is disappointing and it’s a lack of discipline. It’s something we’ve got to do a better job of not allowing that to happen. We’ve got to do a better job of going back on the offensive boards,” said Fortner.
New faces: Seeing all of the new faces was extremely good to see. Kara’s apparent injury did open the door for Augustinaite to get more minutes, and she made fantastic use of them with her offensive ability. D’Asia Thomas finished with eight points and five rebounds in only seven minutes of game time.
“I think D’Asia Thomas came in and played well. Rusne is someone who just loves the game of basketball, you can tell it when she plays it. She plays with an energy that’s inspiring and fun to have on the floor. She plays hard, along with Noguero. We’re young, we’re talking about players who are trying to find their way and get that experience. I was pleased with how [Rusne] played and D’Asia Thomas,” said Fortner.
Jack Purdy is a non-revenue sports writer and co-host of Scions of the Southland for From the Rumble Seat. He previously served as The Technique’s assistant sports editor before graduating Georgia Tech in 2022. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackNicolaus