Jan. 4, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The road to the top of the ACC runs through Duke and today, Georgia Tech gets its chance to make a statement when it hosts the No. 3/3 Blue Devils in both teams’ ACC opener. Tip off at McCamish Pavilion is at 2 p.m.
The Yellow Jackets take the floor with a 10-3 record, having won eight of their last nine. Tech concluded its rugged non-conference slate, during which it faced three top-25 teams, with a tune-up in the Georgia Tech Holiday Tournament, taking care of Alabama State, 99-55, then Hampton, 89-70. The Jackets are 7-0, averaging 92 points per game at McCamish.
The Blue Devils, who are making their first visit to McCamish, have won three of the last four ACC Tournament championships and have had at least a share of the last four regular-season titles, enter the game with a 13-1 mark. Their one loss came to top-ranked Connecticut in the Women’s Jimmy V Classic. Duke is 4-1 against top 25 teams and has recorded impressive road wins at No. 9/9 Cal, No. 17/15 Oklahoma, and No. 5/6 Kentucky. They squashed Old Dominion, 87-63, its last time out, Thursday night at Cameron Indoor.
Today’s game will be the 65th in a series that dates back to 1979. The Blue Devils have dominated the series, winning 57 of the 64 meetings, 35 straight and 24 of the 29 in Atlanta. The Jackets have not beaten Duke since Feb. 27, 1994, a 61-56 win at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
The game can be seen on ESPN3 with Mike DeGeorge and Kurt Hoyt calling the action, and 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.
As a bonus, every Sunday is Kids Day, where children under 18 get in free and, once inside, can play in inflatables, make a Tunnel of Luck for the team as it enters the court and can get autographs from selected players following the game. After today’s game, freshmen Kaela Davis, Katarina Vuckovic, Donnaizha Fountain and Gabrielle Holston will be signing.
And now, the Starting Five for today’s ACC opener.
1. The Last Time We Met: The Yellow Jackets got 23 points from junior Ty Marshall, but struggled offensively and dropped an 85-52 decision, last Dec. 6 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in their ACC opener. The Jackets started shooting 3-for-15, trailed by double-digits five minutes in and went into the half, down 41-27. Marshall got the Jackets to within 10 early in the second half but Duke went on a 12-2 run over the next four minutes to push the lead back to 20 then pulled away. The Jackets shot only 25 percent in the second half and were only 1-for-20 from 3 on the day.
2. A Long Distance Dedication: Georgia Tech’s three-point shooting is much improved from last year’s team. The Jackets are making 5.8 3-point field goals per game, actually ahead of Duke’s 5.7. Freshman Kaela Davis is a big reason why. Davis is averaging 2.5 3’s per game, fifth in the ACC, she leads the conference with 33 3-point field goals and is converting at 33.0 percent (33-of-100). Her presence has opened the floor for Sydney Wallace, whose 33.8 shooting from behind the arc (24-of-71) leads the team. Sophomore Aaliyah Whiteside also has shown she can hit the 3, canning 10 of 42. Duke counters with senior guard Tricia Liston, who’s lighting it up at 47.4 percent (37-for-78). Liston is flanked by sophomore guard Alexis Jones, who shoots 36.7 percent (18-of-49), senior point Chelsea Gray (34.6, 9-for-26) and senior guard Chloe Wells (50.0, 9-of-18).
3. Defending the 3: Tech struggled in last year’s game against Duke from behind the arc, shooting 1-for-20, but Duke didn’t exactly thrive from downtown. They shot 2-for-10, and the teams combined to go 0-for-19 in the second half — Tech 0-for-14, Duke 0-for-5. Similar struggles might be ahead this year, as both teams defend the 3-point line well. Tech’s opponents are shooting 29.2 percent, while Duke’s foes manage 34.3 percent.
4. I’ll Take That: Georgia Tech has made it difficult for teams to take care of the ball, as they are third in the ACC in steals, making 11.5 per game (Duke averages 11.1 spg). Guards Ty Marshall and Dawnn Maye are the main culprits. Marshall is second in the conference with 2.9 steals per game (35), while Maye is right with her, ranking fifth, with 2.5 (33). The duo is working its way up the Tech career steals list, as they begin play ranked fifth and sixth, with Marshall 11 thefts ahead. Marshall has at least three swipes in each of her last eight games, 27 overall (3.4 spg), while Maye has eight steals in her past three games. Stealing is proving contagious, as Tech has six different players with at least 13 this season.
5. Marshall and Deputy Marshal: Davis has provided the perfect complement to Marshall on both ends of the floor. Together, they lead the Yellow Jackets in scoring, combining for 35.7 points — that’s nearly 42.5 percent of the team’s scoring — and are the only players to lead or have a share of the scoring lead in every game this season. Davis, who has five 20-point games and has reached double-figures in 12 of 13 games, averages 18.5 ppg, fifth in the ACC, while Marshall is 11th at 17.2. They have made nearly 40 percent of the team’s field goals (157 of 395), and have taken 40 percent of the team’s free throws (135 of 337). Defensively, they’ve grabbed 177 of the Jackets’ 625 boards (28.3 percent), and are first and third on the team in rebounds per game (Marshall, 7.8, Davis, 6.5) and steals (Marshall 35, Davis 17).
5a. The Sixth Man: Georgia Tech’s three losses have come at No. 4/3 Tennessee, at No. 23/21 Georgia and against No. 13/16 Oklahoma State in the Puerto Rico Classic and all three have been close, losing by a total of 26 points. The three teams combine for a 34-2 record… The Yellow Jackets are 4-6 in ACC Openers in the MaChelle Joseph Era… Tech’s seven home wins in this year’s non-conference play matches the total number of home wins for all of last season, when the Jackets were 7-8… 40 could be a key number today, as Georgia Tech is 10-0 when shooting 40 percent or better, 0-3 when they’re below 40 percent… Both Duke and Georgia Tech can create turnovers, as both have positive turnover margin — Tech is plus-2.9, Duke is plus-2.7. The Jackets turn the ball over 18.4 times a game, while the Blue Devils turn it over 19.7… Ty Marshall is 18 points away from moving into second place all-time in school history in scoring, passing Karen Lounsbury (1989-92) with 1,744 points… Maye is five steals from moving into the top five all time in school history with 227, passing Alex Montgomery (2008-11).
GEORGIA TECH LEADING SCORER: Kaela Davis, 18.5 ppg
DUKE LEADING SCORER: Tricia Liston, 17.5 ppg
GEORGIA TECH LEADING REBOUNDER: Ty Marshall, 7.8 rpg
DUKE LEADING REBOUNDER: Tricia Liston, 6.3 rpg
GEORGIA TECH SCORING: 84.0 ppg.
OPPONENT: 63.5 ppg.
DUKE SCORING: 86.9 ppg.
OPPONENT: 62.6 ppg.
DUKE PLAYER TO WATCH: Elizabeth Williams – One of four Blue Devils on the Naismith Award Watch List for Player of the Year (Chelsea Gray, Tricia Liston and Haley Peters also are on the list), the 6-3 junior center/forward is second on the team in scoring (13.2 ppg) and rebounding (6.4), leads the team in offensive rebounds (37) and paces the starters in field goal percentage (57.5). Williams has given Georgia Tech fits in her two games against them, averaging 22.5 points and 11.0 rebounds. She has shot 62.1 percent (18-for-29), and has made 9-of-11 free throw attempts (81.8, she’s shooting 54.4 percent on the year). Defensively, Williams, who enters play having blocked at least one shot in 83 straight games, has rejected 11 shots in two games against the Jackets.
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