SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – Kierra Fletcher hit the game winning shot against Rice with 1.9 seconds left of the clock as Georgia Tech held off the Owls in the final game of the Coqui Classic Saturday evening in Puerto Rico, 54-52. Fletcher recorded her third career double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Francesca Pan led all scorers with 20 points. The win pushed Tech to 9-2 on the season.
How It Happened
After falling behind by 12 points, 23-11, early in the second quarter, Georgia Tech switched gears and staged a 13-5 run over the final five minutes of the first half to pull within four points at halftime, 28-24. Pan scored the first bucket of the second quarter to snap a 7-0 Rice spurt to open the frame as Fletcher fueled Tech in the stanza with seven points and four rebounds. After being held to one free throw in the opening quarter, the Jackets went 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the second frame and dominated on the glass, securing 14 rebounds, including nine offensive, to Rice’s six rebounds.
Jasmine Carson handed the Jackets their first lead of the game, hitting a three-pointer in the middle of a 7-0 Tech run to open the third quarter as Tech pulled out with a 31-28 advantage. In a low-scoring period, the Jackets gained momentum, outscoring the Owls, 12-6, in the frame led by seven points from Pan. Holding a narrow two-point lead, 42-40, at the final media timeout of the game at 4:54 in the fourth quarter, the Jackets relinquished the lead and fell behind, 47-44, with 2:49 to play. But Pan hit a clutch three-pointer to knot the game at the 2:13 mark and then converted a pair of free throws at 1:32 to give Tech a 49-47 edge.
After forcing a Rice turnover in the next possession, Pan found Lotta-Maj Lahtinen on the wing as the sophomore drained a triple from the corner to extend Tech’s lead to 52-47 with less than a minute to play. Rice answered with five unanswered points to tie the score at 52-52 with nine seconds left to setup Fletcher’s game-winning jumper with 1.9 ticks left on the clock. The Owls could not get a shot off in the final possession as Tech sealed the 54-52 victory.
Tech shot 36.8 percent (21-57) from the field, finished 9-for-11 from the free throw line, dominated on the glass, 38-27, and committed only 10 turnovers in the game. Rice was led in scoring by Jasmine Smith, who finished with 17 points, as the Owls shot 41.7 percent from the field and committed 14 turnovers.
“I’m really proud of the effort the team gave today,” commented head coach Nell Fortner. “We’ve given ourselves a foundation block on having to persevere through some tough times, especially in the first half when we were down and had to come back. We had to defend an offense that is run very well. I’m really proud of how we defended and we knocked down some big shots when we had to have them in the second half.
“I’m just very proud of this team for having to bear down,” continued Fortner. “We’ve lost some close games when we didn’t know how to finish them, but we finished this one today and we’ll build on this for the future.”
Georgia Tech returns to the hardwood on Dec. 29 and opens Atlantic Coast Conference play in McCamish Pavilion welcoming Virginia. Tip is slated for 2 p.m. on ACC Network Extra.