Jan. 2, 2011
By Jon Cooper
It’s a nice feeling when a team’s final tune-up goes well.
It may not always be perfect and Georgia Tech’s 81-52 tune-up victory over Jacksonville State Sunday afternoon at Alexander Memorial wasn’t. But it was more than good enough and left a nice taste in the mouths of the hungry Yellow Jackets, who head into Thursday night’s ACC opener at AMC against North Carolina (7:00 p.m. start).
“I felt like we got our offense from our defense today,” said head coach MaChelle Joseph, whose team created 27 turnovers and turned them into 31 points. “In the second half to get us started. I was really pleased with our overall effort, what you saw on the defensive end and in our transition defense. I thought we did a pretty good job.”
Tech limited the Gamecocks to 36.7 percent shooting (20 percent from three) in the second half and used a devastating 35-4 run over the first five minutes to open a 58-28 lead at the 14:48 mark. The Jackets forced eight turnovers in the run.
The start of the second half mirrored the start of the game, when the Jackets scored the first 12 points, and extended the lead to 28-8 by the 9:43 mark, holding the Gamecocks to 2-for-11 shooting, while forcing 10 turnovers.
Then, the team that had crushed their last three opponents by a combined 161 points did something unexpected and uncharacteristic: they allowed Jackson State back into the game.
JSU shot 7-for-12 to finish the half, going on a 12-0 run and outscored the Jackets 17-7 to close the half. The run had been 17-4 and the Gamecocks appeared to be headed into the locker room with the lead in single digits.
But, Joseph laid the groundwork for the ACC season in the final 21 seconds of the half.
Joseph inserted freshman Frida Fogdemark for the first time in the half. The Swedish sharpshooter would take, and hit, her only shot of the half, a three-pointer, 19 seconds later. The lead was back up to 11, 35-24, and Tech was feeling good about itself, again.
“I thought [Fogdemark’s shot] was huge,” said Joseph. “We ran a play to get Frida the three. That’s what the play was for. It was big for her to be able to come off the bench and knock down a three. It was great because now I know that I can count on Frida for that. For us to be able to go with Alex at the point and have two three-point shooters on the floor at the end of the half, I think they were all focused on Alex and it left Frida wide open.”
The shot capped an odd first half, where Tech had only one three-point basket, Fogdemark’s, and only one blocked shot, that by the shortest member of the team, Metra Walthour.
One thing that did go according to plan was the inspired play of Marshall, who had 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Montgomery added eight, but was 2-for-7 from the floor, 0-for-5 from three.
“Ty Marshall just continues to impress me,” said Joseph. “The last two games she’s had career highs and she played 23 minutes, she had 25 points. For a freshman to do that back-to-back is pretty difficult. I think she continues to show why she’s the best freshman in the ACC.”
While it’s usually neither safe nor fun to even joke about being a fly on the wall in the Tech locker room at halftime after a first half where Joseph’s team has allowed a 20-point lead to nearly evaporate, on Sunday, it actually was safe for insect eavesdropping.
“It was intense but not as intense as usual. She (Joseph) didn’t peel the paint off the locker room wall,” said Marshall, who, despite playing only 16 games already knows the difference. “Basically she was trying to get us to play our game and not play down to their level. To play our game the whole time.”
“It’s printable,” said Joseph with a laugh. “I just challenged them. We’ve got Carolina coming in here on Thursday and if you let Carolina go on a 17-7 run you’re going to be down 20 points. There is no team in the ACC you can let have a 17-7 run and still be in the game. It’s one of the things that we can’t allow to have happen.”
On Sunday they received the message loud and clear. There are other things they’d like to work out before Thursday, but Joseph likes the state of her team.
“I am [satisfied],” said Joseph, who was especially pleased with her team’s effort in its third games in seven days. “Obviously, I would like to see more consistent play out of our post game. Our inside game, we’re still searching, we’re still trying to find that chemistry, the right 4-5 combination that can play well together.
“We’ve seen Chelsea Regins have three pretty good games back-to-back-to-back. [Danielle Hamilton-Carter is] still trying to find her place and where she fits in this,” she added. “The thing is, we need Sasha Goodlett to be more consistent. Eight and eight will get it done. We don’t need her to have 20 and 10 but we need her consistency on the boards and scoring in the paint.”