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Jan. 8, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn

Sting Daily

– You lose a game like the one Georgia Tech dropped Friday at No. 5 Maryland, where head coach MaChelle Joseph’s squad led by 20 early in the second half, and you need . . . something.

How about a fairly quick turnaround, and then loading the Yellow Jackets on yet another bus and traveling to take on another highly-ranked opponent?

At home!

Actually, the Arena at Gwinnett has been good to the Jackets; or rather the Jackets have been good in Gwinnett.

Tech is 5-0 in their temporary home, doing plenty more than biding time while Alexander Memorial Coliseum is re-purposed into McCamish Pavilion in time for the 2012-’13 season. The Jackets have won by 60, 31, 43, 16 and 17 points up the road from home. Miami (12-3, 1-1 ACC) is far, far, far better than any of the teams that have visited to date, but still . . . that’s some serious work.

You’ll have to go elsewhere to find someone to mope about Tech’s fate. The Jackets (11-4, 1-1) have lost to Rutgers, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Georgia and the Terrapins, who were ranked Nos. 10, 14, 15 and 5 as of Sunday.

Yet Coach Jo’s not one to gripe about schedule, location or whether or not they have a true home court. Besides, the Arena has felt pretty homey.

“Actually, it’s worked out pretty well for us pretty far,” she said. “The people at Gwinnett have been really accommodating. They’ve been great to us.”

“We embrace the fact that it is what it is; we can’t do anything about the fact we’re playing there. Our new arena is going to be a beautiful.”

Naturally, Tech’s routine is different on game day than when the Jackets are playing on campus.

Men’s coach Brian Gregory said last week that his team had six bus rides leading up to the Jackets’ “home” game against Alabama, played at Philips Arena. There was one to the shoot-around, another back, one to a team meal, another back, a ride to the game, and the ride back.

The women’s itinerary today as they prepare to play the team picked to win the ACC this season won’t be quite as, uh, full even though the Jackets will play further away.

“We go to Gwinnett at Noon, and check into the Holiday Inn at the Gwinnett Center, go to shootaround, rest, eat something and then go over to play,” Joseph said.

Senior guard Metra Walthour, doesn’t seem to mind.

“We knew about it ahead of time, and we try not to see it as a disadvantage,” she said. “It’s not our home court, but we have the same fans. I think we feed off the energy those fans give us.”

“When we stay after the games and do autographs, we see a lot of same high school kids and their parents.”

[ITALICS If you haven’t been to the Arena at Gwinnett, you should know that it’s a pretty slick place. Parking is abundant, and free, and the arena is among the more user-friendly that I can recall.


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