Feb. 17, 2014
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Georgia Tech did a lot of things right against No. 2 Notre Dame, just not enough to overcome its 31 percent shooting.
Aaliyah Whiteside had a career-high 21 points, the Yellow Jackets outrebounded Notre Dame, doubled the Fighting Irish in second-chance points, and scored 22 points off of 15 turnovers, yet still lost 87-72 on Monday night.
“We weren’t able to make those shots when it mattered, and we were getting some good looks early,” Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said. “We just weren’t able to capitalize. I think that was the difference.”
The Yellow Jackets jumped to an 8-2 lead and had a chance to open a bigger edge as Notre Dame struggled after its seniors were honored before the game, making just 3-of-14 shots with five turnovers in the opening minutes. But the Yellow Jackets struggled, as well, and made only 4 of 18 shots and committed three turnovers.
“I think we could have just kept trying to be aggressive and try to get a bigger lead,” Whiteside said.
The Yellow jackets couldn’t keep Jewell Loyd from driving inside. Sometimes the Notre Dame sophomore got behind the defenders, and other times she drove past them for layups as she helped the Irish overcome the early struggles by the upper classmen.
“I think next year we’re going to have senior night the first day of classes, Aug. 27,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I feel like every year it’s the same thing with the emotion of the moment.”
Loyd said she just stuck to the game plan.
“Just cutting to the middle, attacking when we could off the press, just trying to make open shots,” she said.
Loyd scored seven straight at the end of the first half, capped by an alley-oop layup, and then had back-to-back layups early in the second half to give the Irish a 16-point lead that was extended to 22.
Joseph described Loyd as relentless.
“She gets it done, and you don’t even know she’s getting it done,” she said. “The thing I like about her game is how hard she plays.”
Achonwa, who started the game 1-of-3 from the floor and 1-of-5 from the free-throw line, scored 18 points in the second half to finish with 21 points and 10 rebounds. She said the senior night activities, which included singing the Canadian national anthem in her honor, took the players out of their routine.
“It kind of got us out of our rhythm,” she said. “It just took us a little bit to refocus.”
McBride finished with 12 points despite struggling on 3-of-13 shooting, but finished with a career-high eight assists.
The Irish (25-0, 12-0 ACC) are five wins shy of their longest winning streak, set last season. The loss ended a four-game winning streak for the Yellow Jackets (17-9, 7-6).
“We didn’t have an answer for her,” said McGraw (739-258) , who tied former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan (739-324) for 10th in career victories.
Joseph said Notre Dame’s physical play gave the Yellow Jackets trouble.
“They really bodied us and pushed us offline,” she said.
Georgia Tech’s Tyaunna Marshall averaged 24.1 points in her eight previous games and scored at least 20 points in seven of them. She made 8 of 24 shots on Monday and finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
“She’s a great player. She is so hard to guard,” McGraw said. “She struggled a little bit in the first half, but we just could not box her out.”
Joseph, who is from Auburn, about 80 miles from South Bend, and played at Purdue, said her family made it to the game despite a heavy snowstorm.
“It means a lot to me to risk all that to support me and to support the team,” she said.