I’m sitting at a coffee shop in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta. Rain has been steadily falling for the last 12 hours or so. The outside temperature isn’t so bad as to make going outside impossible. Today’s gloomy nature feels right when thinking about Georgia Tech Women’s Basketball who lost yesterday to Miami 62-60 after both leading by nine points and losing the lead in the third quarter. They never saw another lead in the game, falling to 14-11 overall and 5-8 in ACC play, now 10th in the conference only a half game ahead of the 11-13 Clemson Tigers.
I left this game frustrated, moreso than I have been for others. It’s two straight close games Tech has fallen just short in. They had a chance to get a rare upset in Syracuse, but a Sydney Johnson turnover threw our chances away. Against Miami, the defense disappeared and before we knew it, they were playing from behind once again in a conference game, never truly putting up the resistance needed for a comeback.
I really want someone to come light a fire under this team. It probably should be one of the players, but somebody has to change the tone of this team and say “enough is enough.” Maybe Michelle Collier. Julia Bergmann said her speeches were fantastic. Of course that’s easy enough for me to say from the outside, and I bet the coaching staff is doing everything they can to get that fire lit. I hope one way or another, it can happen.
When this team needs to play like their lives depend on it, they don’t. Careless mistakes pop up everywhere from casually letting the ball go out of bounds despite it going off Tech or brain fart turnovers. I don’t want to say this team is finding ways to lose, but they sure as hell aren’t finding the ways to win.
The quotes from Nell Fortner after the game didn’t exactly exude promise that the team is categorically heading in the right direction.
“We shot the ball poorly...that’s really disappointing on your home court.
“The third quarter has been our achilles heel.”
“We can put it together for a little bit of the time, we just can’t put it together for 40 minutes.”
“At this point, I’ll look at anything right now. We’re trying to find a win. We gotta keep grinding and we gotta stay confident.”
I appreciate her honesty and I laud that she’s not hiding the fact things were bad. That’s just the reality, but at some point, we need to hear something along the lines of “we know how to win these games and what to adjust for next time to get over the hump.” Tech is only outscoring opponents by 3.12 points per game, and that number is rapidly shrinking in ACC play.
The things I’m concerned about are: Third quarters, Tonie Morgan, and the aforementioned lack of intensity down the stretch.
Tech has outscored their opponents in every quarter except the third. Against ACC opponents, they have a -86 point differential in the third. Against all opponents, it’s a -32 point differential (was -20 heading into the game).
For a team whose best strength on the surface is their shooting, it’s not playing out that way. In the ACC, Tech is 13th in scoring offense, 11th in scoring differential, 13th in free throw shooting, 10th in FG%, and 11th in 3PT%.
On the plus side, when we do score, it’s a team effort. Tech is 3rd in assists with 15.8 per game and 2nd in assist:turnover ratio at 1.17.
What puzzles me is Tonie Morgan. While she deservedly gets a high volume of minutes (31.0/game), leads the team in scoring, assists, steals, and points, she also leads in turnovers with 101, reliably giving the ball away 2-5 times per game in ACC play. She’s 216th nationally in assist:turnovers at 1.25. It’s better than our team average, but that means we have to live and die by what she does.
She’s averaging 4.0 turnovers per game. In games Tonie turns the ball over four or more times, Tech is 6-7. At three or less, we’re 8-4. There’s obviously more to it than just that, but it’s a barometer I think we need to pay attention to. The ACC is run by the best guards. If Tonie wants to be one of those in her junior and senior years, we have to see improvement here.
Amongst her notable ACC peers: Ta’Niya Latson (FSU), Olivia Miles (ND), Hannah Hidalgo (ND) and Georgia Amoore (VT) just to name a few, they’re all top 10 in scoring with Tonie, but these are the teams Tech does not beat. Tonie is playing like Trae Young on his early Hawks teams. Great statline, the record doesn’t back it up (this arguably has not changed for Young but that’s a matter for Peachtree Hoops). I don’t care if you’re good, you have to win. We don’t do that enough to matter in the conference.
So, for now, I can’t say for sure what actually is the main cause of why Tech has a losing record in the ACC despite having enough talent to not, but we do, and that’s not good enough. Tech has five games before the ACC Tournament. Louisville and NC State are the only team Tech plays that isn’t in the bottom 9 of the conference (thanks BuzzForPresident for the edit!). If we don’t get three wins, I would not be surprised if J Batt starts thinking hard about the future of this team. Tech has to show there was progress from last season. This is their chance. Ball don’t lie.
The full game recap is below for those interested. There’s plenty more to dissect from this game than I’ve put here. I’ll take care of that tonight when we record Scions of the Southland if you want to hear me, Jake, and Akshay’s thoughts there.
A well-executed defensive play gave Tonie a transition foul earning two free throws, putting GT ahead 2-0. Miami’s full court press gave Tech some early issues, but that didn’t last long once Tonie’s three-pointer pushed Tech to a 7-4 lead. Miami pulled within one at 9-8 with 6:30 left. Another Tonie bucket extended Tech’s lead to 11-8. Tech had some communication errors for the next couple minutes that resulted in multiple turnovers, but not points off them for Miami. Rus’s three-pointer provided a boost beyond the arc, making it 14-9 for Tech before Miami’s Lattimore quickly countered with a three of her own. Both sides concluded the quarter with a combined 2-22 shooting.
2nd Quarter (14-12 GT)
Two Noguero free throws and two solid plays dictated by Augustinaite extended GT’s lead to 20-14 early in the quarter. A Blackshear layup was the last basket of an 8-0 run, giving Tech their largest lead at 22-14. Defensively, Tech was not giving up easy baskets, forcing a shot clock violation before Sydney Johnson hit a three to make the lead nine (25-16). GT maintained their momentum, with Tonie’s jumper expanding the lead to 29-22. Miami could not find a rhythm anywhere, including at the free throw line where Latasha Lattimore missed two free throws near the end of the quarter. By halftime, Miami was shooting 33% from the stripe, 14% from three, and 31% overall.
3rd Quarter (29-22 GT)
A Kayla jumper started things for a 31-24 Tech lead before Tonie just...lost the ball dribbling normally down the court, starting a 6-0 Miami run. Rus hit a bucket to maintain the lead at 34-30. Here, started hitting their free throws earning a 35-35 tie. Both teams exchanged baskets, with an Ines mid-range shot briefly putting GT back in front at 37-35. However, Miami’s sharp shooting from beyond the arc, including two three-pointers by Day-Wilson, swung the lead in their favor at 42-41. The quarter as a whole was not a strong point for Tech’s defense, allowing 12 paint points after allowing only 12 in the first half, added on to by a three point play for Williams and a free layup to end the quarter.
4th Quarter (49-44 Miami)
Tech started with two consecutive turnovers, including a one by Aixa Wone Aranaz essentially throwing it to no one straight out of bounds. This isn’t exactly where Miami’s momentum was too much for Tech to overcome, but it was close. Kara and Tonie fueled a 7-0 run to pull within two at 53-51, prompting a timeout from Miami. Right here, right when we needed kill shots, Miami ran away with the game as we kept turning the ball over and giving away easy buckets. Augustinaite did hit a three to shrink Miami’s lead to two, but with under a second left it was too little too late.
Points: Tonie Morgan (GT) - 24
Assists: Tonie Morgan (GT) - 5
Rebounds: Kayla Blackshear (GT) - 9
Turnovers: Tonie Morgan (GT) - 5
Georgia Tech Women’s Basketball next plays Thursday February 15 at 7 p.m. at Clemson.
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