The Wolfpack had won their last three games, while Tech for the first time since late December were .500 in their last four games.
The game marked the debut of their newest gray jersey, a lighter shade with different striping than the men’s version.
Tonight’s New Retro Grey Threads pic.twitter.com/f87Wp0OWjp— Georgia Tech Women's Basketball (@GTWBB) February 3, 2023
The pep band of all groups were the first impact “player” of the game, doing their fake shot clock countdown and fooling Diamond Johnson into scrambling an airball shot early. The Wolfpack had a solid defensive structure that Aixa Wone Aranaz in particular struggled with forcing Nerea Hermosa to come in for the rest of the quarter.
NC State’s five first quarter turnovers and Tech’s subsequent five points off those turnovers were the difference in the quarter. Tonie Morgan converted layups on consecutive steals (one by her, the other by Kara Dunn) that became part of seven straight buckets and a 15-2 run for Tech to close the quarter with a 23-18 lead on a Bianca Jackson buzzer beater two.
But of course, this is Atlanta sports. Nice things only last so long. NC State took advantage of Tech playing a a quick rotation of bench players and went on a 12-0 run out the gate of the 2nd quarter.
“That’s a potent, powerful team,” Nell said of NC State after the game. “They can just go off on you really quickly, and they did. Boom 7-0 run, timeout.”
Tech finally stemmed the run with threes from AC Carter and Swartz. The teams went punch for punch the rest of the half to finish at 33-33. Bianca Jackson played seven minutes in the 2nd after missing the previous game to injury.
The 3rd quarter was plagued with scoring droughts on both sides. Apart from a jumper from Aranaz and a pair of free throws from Morgan, the Jackets were scoreless through the first four minutes of the 3rd. NC State matched Tech’s 4 points, keeping their 1-point lead, until Morgan was able to sink two more from the charity stripe. With 3:31 left, NC State took the lead 47-42, capitalizing off a Jackets’ turnover. A hook shot jumper from Hermosa and a deep three from Swartz brought life back into the Jackets putting them up by 1 going into the final quarter.
Both teams started the 4th scoring. In the first 30 seconds, Jakia Brown-Turner took back the Wolfpack’s lead with two made free throws. Her scoring was immediately answered by a three from Jackson. NC State tied things up at 53-53 with a made bucket in the first two minutes of the fourth. For the next 3:43, no one scored. Finally, Kayla Blackshear was able to get a bucket off an opponent turnover. The Jackets then went on a 7-2 scoring run to push their lead to 5 with the game inside 4 minutes. Both Morgan and Hermosa were able to knock down some big free throws as the game came to a close. Turnovers, airballs, and fouls dwindled any hope of a late comeback from the Wolfpack.
Jack’s Three Thoughts + Postgame Quotes:
- The pieces are coming together: “We’re steadily getting better. It’s something that may not show up in the win-loss column but I know that we’re getting better. Tonight was a real payoff for us against a top 25 team and hang tough the entire 40 minutes.” That was Nell Fortner’s main point in her opening statement in the press conference, and I think that details perfectly what this team has gone through this season. Even in games they lost, bits and pieces slowly have found their place in the design of how Nell’s squad will be successful. It’s not a far cry from last year’s heavy defense & methodical offense, but has moments of explosiveness that Morgan spearheads, allowing anyone to be a killer offensively.
- Hermosa finding her groove: The slow start by Hermosa this season didn’t necessarily baffle me, but I was surprised because it was clear she was going to have a big role on this team, and she just didn’t play to that level. Tonight was the first time I saw her this season looking like 2021-2022 Hermosa that played with fluid physicality that never wavered. Nell: “I thought we really had some strong bench play. I thought Nerea Hermosa was who we know Nerea Hermosa can be. That’s great having that kind of player coming off the bench.”
- There’s an offensive identity now that can last: The team has gone through a rebuild of sorts through ACC play that is resulting in the best form of this team with Tonie Morgan leading the offense while everyone plays sound defense. Nell’s quote about where they are offensively currently holds the title for Nell Quote of the Year: “Tonie is just getting more confident and more sure of herself. With the ball in her hand we can do a lot of different things because she’s such a competent scorer and downhill driver. And then you look at 10 assists and she’s our leading scorer. That’s big time. That’s ain’t small potatoes. That’s big potatoes.”
Georgia Tech women’s basketball next plays Sunday, February 5 at 12 p.m. at Miami. TV: ACCN