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Starting Five: Georgia Tech (12-4) vs. No. 8 North Carolina (14-0)

Jan. 4, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Tip-Off: 7:00 p.m. Thursday
Radio Coverage: 91.1 FM WREK & WREK.org

TECH LEADING SCORER: Alex Montgomery, 14.8 ppg
NORTH CAROLINA LEADING SCORER: Italee Lucas, 18.1 ppg

TECH LEADING REBOUNDER: Alex Montgomery, 8.6 rpg
NORTH CAROLINA LEADING REBOUNDER: Jessica Breland, 8.1 rpg

TECH SCORING: 67.4 ppg
OPPONENT: 51.2 ppg

NORTH CAROLINA SCORING: 86.9 ppg
OPPONENT: 50.9 ppg

NORTH CAROLINA PLAYER TO WATCH: Jessica Breland: The 6-3 senior forward’s inspiring comeback from Hodgkin’s lymphoma continues. Breland, who missed all of the 2009-10 season fighting the ailment, has regained her form as one of the nation’s top power forwards, as she’s averaging 13.3 points and 2.28 blocks per game (both second on the team) in addition to her team-leading 8.1 rebounds per game.

Georgia Tech dives head-long into ACC play Thursday night, hosting eighth-ranked North Carolina. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

The Jackets enter play riding a nine-game winning streak, and are coming off an 81-52 rout of Jacksonville State Sunday afternoon at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Head Coach MaChelle Joseph’s squad has split the last four meetings with the Tar Heels (who own a 51-13 edge in the series) and will be going for the first winning streak in the series since Jan. 9 and Feb. 22 of 1991, a streak of 40 games.

The Tar Heels are unbeaten heading into the game and have won by an average of 30.3 points per game. They’re coming off a 97-40 swamping of North Carolina Central at Carmichael Arena. Carolina only led 39-30 at the half, before outscoring the Lady Eagles, 58-10 in the final 20 minutes and holding them to 3-for-30 shooting (0-for-7 from three). Krista Gross and Waltiea Rolle each had 16 for UNC.

Joseph has expressed her tremendous respect for the UNC program and head coach Sylvia Hatchell.

“I said five years ago that I wanted our program to look like North Carolina,” Joseph said. “I think there are going to be two teams out there that are going to look identical. They’re going to be quick, they’re going to be athletic, they’re going to trap, they’re going to press, they’re going to run the ball up and down the floor. It’s going to be a terrific game. It’s going to be a very fast-paced, high-energy game that is going to be typical of what an ACC game is going to be like this year.”

Now, the Starting Five for today’s game.

And the Winner (Again) Is…: Freshman sensation Ty Marshall took home her fourth ACC Rookie of the Week award last week. Marshall averaged 22.0 points on 73.8 percent shooting in leading the Yellow Jackets to wins over Mercer, Tennessee State and Jacksonville State by a total of 158 points (264-106). Marshall is chasing Tracy Connor of Wake Forest, who won the award a record nine times during the 1992-93 season.

Finding A Way: Alex Montgomery hasn’t exactly shot the lights out against North Carolina, entering Thursday night’s game with a 31.1 shooting percentage (28-for-90) in six career games against UNC, 34.0 percent at AMC (17-for-47). But she’s found other ways to contribute. Montgomery set her career-highs for rebounds (15) and assists (7) against the Tar Heels. Her high-rebounding game came in last year’s victory at AMC, while she matched her career-high for assists as a freshman at Carmichael.

Stealing the Show: The Yellow Jackets have turned up the defensive intensity since coming back from Christmas break. In those five games, they have created 134 turnovers (26.8 a game) and have made 77 steals (15.4 spg). In addition, in non-conference play, the Jackets put the squeeze on opponents, holding them to 35.3 percent shooting (26.1 percent from three).

Point Taken: Georgia Tech will keep a close eye on North Carolina point guard Italee Lucas, who was the barometer in the teams’ two games last season. In the first half of the Jan. 6 game in Chapel Hill, Lucas scored 23 of her 28 points in the first half, shooting 7-for-8, 3-for-4 from three, and 6-for-7 from the line, as the No. 7 Tar Heels jumped out to a 50-26 halftime lead on their way to an 89-78 victory. In the rematch at AMC on Feb. 26, Tech limited Lucas to 2-for-11 shooting, 0-for-5 from three in its 64-57 victory.

I Know There’s Something Going On: It appears that freshman Frida Fogdemark is finding the range. Fogdemark has made three of her last six three-point attempts over the last two games, including the clutch three on a play designed for her by Coach Joseph with two seconds remaining in the first half against Jacksonville State. She had made a total of three three-point field goals over the team’s first 14 games (of which she played 11), shooting 3-for-16 (18.7 percent).

The Sixth Woman: Chelsea Regins has become a bona fide offensive threat of late. Regins has 19 field goals in the five games since the team has come back from winter break. She had a total of 16 field goals in the team’s first 11 games (of which she played 10). Regins has 16 FGMs over her last three games (seven against Mercer, five against Tennessee State and four against Jacksonville State) and has averaged 12.6 points per game. That’s nine points over her collegiate average. North Carolina will know where Regins is, as during her freshman season, she scored six points in 21 minutes, sparking Tech’s upset of No. 2 North Carolina on Jan. 22, 2009. The win was the first for Joseph over the Tar Heels and broke a Yellow Jackets’ 11-game series losing streak.

The Sixth Woman (Part II): LaQuananisha Adams also played a big part in the ’09 upset, scoring seven points in a career-high 27 minutes. Her six rebounds and two assists in that game also were career-bests (the rebounding mark was broken on Nov. 17, against Kennesaw State).

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