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Starting Five: Georgia Tech (7-2, 0-0, ACC) vs. UTEP (9-0), No. 13/16 Oklahoma State (8-0)

Dec. 19, 2013

By Jon Cooper

Sting Daily

There’s good news and bad news for Georgia Tech as it opens this weekend’s games in the Puerto Rico Classic.

The good news is the weather is going to be in the 80s all weekend.

The bad news is there’s a chance of rain all three days.

But it’s the threat of rain inside Coliseo Guillermo Angulo — in the form of opposing three-pointers — that has the Jackets concerned. They will have their work cut out for them in their two games, meeting UTEP tonight (tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. ET, 6:00 local time), then take on No. 13/15 Oklahoma State on Sunday in another 5:00 p.m. ET tip.

“The two teams combined are 17-0 so to say that they’re good teams is an understatement,” said coach MaChelle Joseph. “UTEP is a very good team with tremendous depth and athleticism and you look at Oklahoma State and they’re 13th in the country. They’re very well coached. They’re very similar to us. We match up. It’s going to be like an ACC-type matchup.”

The Yellow Jackets bring a 7-2 record to Puerto Rico and boast a five-game winning streak. They’re coming off a 104-54 laugher over Portland State, Tuesday night at McCamish Pavilion, in which Joseph coached her 200th career victory. Senior guard Ty Marshall led five Jackets in double-figures, going for 19 with 10 rebounds, while sophomore forward Roddreka Rogers matched her career-high with 13 points. Tech was never in danger, shooting better than 55 percent in the first half in jumping out to a 30-point halftime lead. The Jackets scored 46 points off 27 Viking turnovers.

The Conference-USA-leading Miners raised their record to 9-0 their last time out, walloping Southeastern Louisiana, 87-65, at the Don Haskins Center last Sunday. Senior forward Kayla Thornton had 16 points and 10 rebounds, both game-highs for UTEP, which used a 24-3 first-half run to break open what was a two-point game and UTEP cruised from there.

The Cowgirls, who are in second in the Big XII behind 9-0 Iowa State, made it 8-for-8 last Saturday, taking out South Florida, 75-56, in the All-College Classic at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. Senior forward Liz Donahoe had 18 points and eight rebounds, both game highs, while guard Tiffany Bias added 16 with seven assists and back court mate Brittney Martin added 16. OSU went on a 12-1 run midway through the first half, took a 17-point lead into the locker room and never looked back.

Friday’s game will be the first in program history for Georgia Tech against UTEP, while Sunday will be only the second meeting against Oklahoma State. The Yellow Jackets are 0-1, losing, 70-64, in Stillwater, Okla., on Nov. 15, 2009.

Both games can be heard on WREK, 91.1 FM, or online at www.WREK.org with Richard Musterer and LaQuananisha Adams on the call. Fans can get live stats on RamblinWreck.com and also can get instant updates by following the team on Twitter at @GTWBB and can get more information on the team by liking them on Facebook, GTWomensBasketball.

And now, the Starting Five for this weekend’s Puerto Rico Classic.

The Last Time We Met: The Yellow Jackets got a career-high 21 from sophomore Sasha Goodlett and had double-figure scoring performances from Brigitte Ardossi and LaQuananisha Adams, but lost, 70-64, to Oklahoma State at Gallagher-Iba Arena in the 2009 Preseason WNIT on Nov. 15, 2009. Tech trailed 22-20 with 7:33 remaining in the first half, but OSU went on a 9-0 run and led by seven at the break. A 7-2 Jackets run cut the lead to three, with 7:53 to play, but the Cowgirls scored the next eight points and pulled away. The Jackets had an edge in points in the paint (24-15) and second-chance points (15-7) and won on the offensive glass (16-11) but were hurt by cold outside shooting, going a school-record 0-for-13 from three-point range.

What’s In a Ranking?: Georgia Tech ranks ninth in the ACC, with its 7-2 mark, but while UTEP leads its conference and Oklahoma State is right on the doorstep in second in its league, the Jackets expect to play with them and the numbers suggest that’s not out of line. Tech’s 82.4 ppg are actually a bucket more than the Miners’ 80.4 ppg, which rank second in C-USA in scoring offense, and the Jackets’ 61.4 points allowed are comparable to UTEP’s C-USA-leading 56.2 ppg. Defensively, UTEP has held opponents to a lower field goal percentage (.344 to .453) but from three-point range, Tech has shot (.320 to .305) and defended better (.255, second in the ACC, to .306). The Jackets may have a tougher time matching up with OSU. The Cowgirls score 84.1 ppg, third in the Big XII, only two points a game more than Tech, but they are stingier leading their league in scoring defense (49.1 ppg), and field goal percentage (.488), and rank second in field goal percentage defense (.309) and 3-point FG percentage defense (.210). They shoot .348 from three, third in the Big XII. One factor in Tech’s favor is that according to the Jeff Sagarin/CBN rankings, Georgia Tech has played the toughest schedule of the three teams.

Ty Time: After being slowed by injuries to start the season, senior guard Ty Marshall has hit her stride. Over her last five games, Marshall is scoring 20.6 ppg on 53.9 percent shooting (41-for-76), while grabbing 8.2 rebounds, 3.8 off the offensive glass. Defensively, she’s making 2.8 steals per game. Marshall, who begins the Tournament fifth all-time in school history in scoring, 20 points away from tying Carla Munion (1995-98) for fourth, has two double-doubles in the five game span and has not scored fewer than 16 points in any of the five games. She’s also had success in San Juan, earning a berth on the Shootout All-Tournament team in 2011, going for 15.5 points, with 6.5 rebounds and 4.0 steals.

Dawnn-ting: Senior point Dawnn Maye has come alive of late, as over her last five games she’s handed out 25 assists vs. 11 turnovers. She was 13/10 over the season’s first four. Maye also has 15 steals and a pair of double-figure scoring games in the last five, including 15 against Portland State. She had 16 total points in her first four games. Maye is shooting 67.6 percent on the season and leads the team with 25 steals. Playing at Coliseo Guillermo Angulo has been good for her, as last season, she scored 26 points on 10 field goals, including two 3-pointers, in 44 minutes, all career highs, against Syracuse, then followed that up with a 17-point effort with five steals against UW-Milwaukee.

Bounce Back: Expect a big game from freshman guard Kaela Davis in response to what might be considered her first collegiate “off-game.” Tuesday night against Portland State, Davis finished with nine points, on 2-for-10 shooting, 0-for-6 from three, in 26 minutes. It was the first game all season she was held to single-digit scoring. The last time Davis, already two-time ACC Rookie of the Week, shot 0-fer from 3, was against Southern Utah on Nov. 29. She came back the next game and drilled 3-of-5 in scoring 13 points in 17 minutes against McNeese State. Davis’ 18.6 ppg lead the team and rank fifth in the ACC.

The Sixth Man: Georgia Tech is making its third straight trip to the Puerto Rico Classic. They are 1-3 in their first two, but two of the losses came in overtime (67-62 to RV/18 Green Bay in their 2011 finale then 75-72 last year against Syracuse. The Jackets split last year, taking the finale, 66-57 against UW-Milwaukee…The Yellow Jackets have two players amongst the leaders in the ACC in free throw shooting, as Kaela Davis ranks fourth, shooting .872, and Aaliyah Whiteside is 15th, shooting .788. Sydney Wallace would make it three, as she’s shooting .846, but she’s only managed 13 free throw attempts (she’s hit 11 of them)…Wallace has been superb at the point in her last three games handing out 10 assists to only two turnovers. She had 11 assists vs. 17 turnovers in the first six games…Sophomore center Nariah Tayor had her first double-digit scoring game against Portland State since the season opener. She shot 5-for-6, one off her season-best five FGMs…Redshirt senior center Shayla Bivins matched her season-highs with four field goals and eight points against Portland State, and is shooting .625 (10-for-16) over her last three games…Sophomore big Roddreka Rogers is heating up. She’s hit at least four field goals three times in her last four games and is shooting 60.8 percent (14-for-23). In addition, she’s crashing the glass, having pulled down 39 rebounds (9.75 rpg)…A pair of youngsters contributed to the blowout against Portland State. Freshman guard Donnaizha Fountain had her first collegiate double-figure scoring game, getting 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting (1-for-2 from 3), while also grabbing a career-best six rebounds, while fellow freshman swing Gabrielle Holston, who had made 3 of her first 8 FTAs over her first three games, doubled her season FTMs against Portland State, going 6-for-7 from the stripe.

GEORGIA TECH LEADING SCORER: Kaela Davis, 22.7 ppg
UTEP LEADING SCORER: Kayla Thornton, 17.0 ppg
OKLAHOMA STATE LEADING SCORER: Brittney Martin, 17.1 ppg

GEORGIA TECH LEADING REBOUNDER: Kaela Davis, 8.7 rpg
UTEP LEADING REBOUNDER: Kayla Thornton, Chrishauna Parker, 8.6 rpg
OKLAHOMA STATE LEADING REBOUNDER: Brittney Martin, 7.5 rpg

GEORGIA TECH SCORING: 80.7 ppg.
OPPONENT: 63.7 ppg.

UTEP SCORING: 80.4 ppg.
OPPONENT: 56.2 ppg.

OKLAHOMA STATE SCORING: 84.1 ppg.
OPPONENT: 49.1 ppg.

UTEP PLAYER TO WATCH: Kayla Thornton – The 6-1 senior forward is UTEP’s all-time leader in double-figure scoring games (55), double-doubles (25), is on pace to become its all-time leading rebounder and will likely finish second all-time in scoring. Thornton, a two-time All-Conference USA Second-Teamer and a C-USA All-Defensive Teamer last year, is seventh in C-USA in scoring (17.0), is tied for fourth in rebounding and offensive rebounding, is tied for second in steals (20) and is 13th in blocked shots.

OKLAHOMA STATE PLAYER TO WATCH: Tiffany Bias – The 5-6 senior guard, a two-time All-Big XII Second-Teamer and an Honorable Mention All-American last season, started the year second in the nation among active points in assists, and is on her way to becoming the top assister in school history. She leads the Big XII in assists (8.38), and is third in assist:turnover ratio (3.13), but also can score as she’s 16th in scoring at 12.9 ppg. Defensively, Bias is second in steals (3.13 spg) and rarely comes off the floor, as her 32.25 minutes are fifth in the conference. Twice this season she has handed out 12 assists in a game.

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