March 1, 2007
BY STEVE PHILLIPS
GREENSBORO, N.C. – The 30th annual Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Tournament hadn’t seen an upset through the first three games of its opening round.
Georgia Tech made certain the trend held up in Thursday’s nightcap.
Janie Mitchell scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the sixth-seeded Yellow Jackets to a 66-52 win over 11th-seeded Miami at the Greensboro Coliseum.
By defeating the Hurricanes in the tournament’s opening round for the second straight year, the Yellow Jackets (20-10) earned a spot opposite third-seeded Maryland in Friday’s 8 p.m quarterfinal game.
Georgia Tech pushed the eventual national champion Terps to the limit in last year’s quarterfinal game before losing 71-66, then defeated the3n-fourth ranked Maryland 77-72 earlier this season in Atlanta.
“A year ago at this time we were high as a kite because we got one win in the ACC Tournament,” Tech fourth-year head coach MaChelle Joseph noted. “This year, it’s more like, `OK we won this first-round game. Now we’ve got Maryland tomorrow night.’
“It’s no longer the biggest thing in the world that we won a first-round game. As a program and a team, it’s like we are now expecting those wins. We’ve kind of turned a corner with our mentaility and our approach.”
Senior guard Stephanie Higgs added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets and played a big part in a stout defensive effort against Miami guards Renee Taylor and Maurita Reid.
The pair combined for just five shots and six points in the first half, which ended with Georgia Tech in front 37-26. Taylor finished with 14 points – below her ACC-leading 18.8 ppg average — while Reid scored with 12. The Yellow Jackets built their lead to 18 points in the second half and withstood every effort by the Hurricanes to mount a charge.
Katie Meier, who wrapped up her second season as the Hurricanes’ head coach, looked back on the closing minutes of the first half as a turning point. Georgia Tech led just 28-25 with 3:20 to play, but outscored Miami 9-1 before intermission.
“That’s a credit to Georgia Tech,” Meier said. “They scouted us well, and they knew our sets and broke us down.”
The Yellow Jackets then scored the first six points of the second half to keep the Hurricanes (11-19) running uphill. The victory gave Georgia Tech a three-game sweep of it series with Miami, which finished the year minus three scholarship players from its preseason roster due to injury, a personal leave of absence and a transfer.
“I think a lot was accomplished this season in terms of attitude, in terms of excellence, in terms of not accepting anything less,” Meier said. “We had some tough losses on our roster, but you never saw us feeling sorry for ourselves.”
Regardless of the outcome of Friday night’s game against Maryland, Joseph feels certain Georgia Tech has sufficiently padded its NCAA Tournament resume.
“I think we are absolutely in,” Joseph said. “Any team that’s 9-5 (in the ACC) … that would be a direct slam to our conference (to leave that team out). We’ve got some of the best teams in the country in our conference. We played a very tough non-conference schedule.
“There’s no way that Georgia Tech is not an NCAA Tournament team.”