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Tech Women Step Out Of Conference; Face Arkansas in Russell Athletic Shootout

Feb. 12, 2005

ATLANTA – The Georgia Tech women’s basketball team will step out of conference for the last time this season when it faces Arkansas in the Russell Athletic Shootout, which is hosted by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Arena at Gwinnett Center Sunday afternoon. The Yellow Jackets will play the first game of the doubleheader at 1 p.m. Sunday with Georgia and Clemson to follow at approximately 3:20 p.m. Both games will be televised by the Regional Sports Network (RSN), which includes FSN South, Sunshine Network and Comcast SportsNet. Mike Hogewood will call the play-by-play for Georgia Tech’s game, and he will be joined on the broadcast by Debbie Antonelli (color commentary) and Jenn Hildreth (sideline reporter). The game will also be broadcast on the Georgia Tech student radio station, WREK-91.1 FM, and online at www.wrek.org, with Richart Musterer providing the play-by-play and Kurt Hoyt contributing the color commentary.

Georgia Tech enters the contest with a 13-8 record on the season, including a 1-0 mark against SEC opponents, while the Lady’Backs are 14-8 in 2004-05 and have yet to play an ACC team this year.

Following the game against Arkansas, the Yellow Jackets will travel to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech in the first meeting between the two teams as members of the same conference.

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Georgia Tech Tidbits

LIVING UP TO THE HYPE: Prior to the season, the Yellow Jackets voted and 50 percent of the squad said that Stephanie Higgs would be the player that would surprise people this season…she’s lived up to that hype through 21 games by leading the team in scoring (13.6 ppg) and standing second in assists (40) and steals (32). She is also averaging 4.5 rebounds per contest.

INTO THE FIRE: Freshmen Jill Ingram and Chioma Nnamaka were thrown into the starting lineup prior to the season opener and have performed well, as they are first and third, respectively, in scoring. Nnamaka has started every game for the Jackets this season while Ingram has been in the starting lineup in all but one contest. Two other freshmen, Janie Mitchell and Daphne Mitchell, have also appeared in the starting lineup at some point this season, and the Jackets have started four games in 2004-05 with three freshmen in the starting lineup.

LOVING THE MISS: Jessica Williams is again one of the top rebounders in the league, as she is averaging 7.0 per game while scoring 4.9 points per contest.

LOOKING AT THE BENCH: Just because the starters are out doesn’t mean Tech’s opponents can relax…through the first 21 games of the season, the Jackets’ bench is averaging 18.1 points per game (380 total), while the starters are averaging 41.6 points (873 total).

SUB, PLEASE!: After finishing the 2003-04 season with just five active players averaging more than 15 minutes per game, the Jackets have eight players on the 2004-05 roster averaging more than 15 minutes per contest, with six of those averaging more than 20 minutes per game.

IMPORTANCE OF GETTING TO THE LINE: The Yellow Jackets have posted a stellar 11-2 record when converting on more free throws than their opponents, including a 3-2 mark against ACC teams. Conversely, when their opponents have made more shots from the charity stripe, Tech is just 2-6, including a 1-4 mark against conference foes. When taking more free throw attempts, Georgia Tech is 11-2 on the season and 3-1 in ACC play, but the Jackets are just 2-6 overall and 1-5 in conference matchups when their opponents reach the line more.

MAKING THE MOST OF “FREE” POINTS: Since dropping the pair of games at Tulsa and St. John’s in which the Yellow Jackets shot just 50 percent from the free-throw line (15-of-30), Georgia Tech had been much stronger from the charity stripe. In the five games following that road trip, the Jackets went 5-0 and connected on 80 percent of their free throws (64-of-80), including a season-high 90 percent mark against Alcorn State in the championship game of the GT/Atlanta Marriott NW Holiday Invitational. Overall, in their eight losses this season, the Jackets have made just 90 free throws in 136 overall attempts, converting just 66.1 percent from the line. In comparison, Georgia Tech has converted on 185-of-256 free throws (72.3 percent) in their 13 victories.

TIME TO WAKE UP: This season, the Yellow Jacket offense has, at times, had problems getting started…but that doesn’t mean they don’t eventually “wake up.” In games where the Yellow Jackets have a higher shooting percentage in the second half as compared to the first, Georgia Tech is 8-5, but when the Jackets shoot lower in the second frame, they are 5-3. When the Jackets have scored equal to or more points in the second half, they are 9-5 on the season, but when scoring fewer points in the final frame, they are just 4-3.

HOLDING THEM UNDER 60: Georgia Tech has held its opponents to under 60 points on 14 occasions in 2004-05, and in those games, the Yellow Jackets have posted a 12-2 mark. The Jackets’ defense has held ACC opponents to under 60 points on five occasions this season and have gone 4-1 in those contests. On eight occasions this season Georgia Tech has held its opponent to less than 50 points and has posted a perfect 8-0 record in those games, with three of those victories coming against ACC foes Miami, Clemson and Wake Forest.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE: According to the latest WBCA/Summerville RPI, Georgia Tech’s 2004-05 schedule is ranked the 15th-toughest in the nation, as the Yellow Jackets will play 10 games against teams that are ranked in the top-25 of this week’s RPI. Among ACC teams, Georgia Tech’s schedule is only ranked behind Miami (2), Maryland (7), Duke (8) and Virginia Tech (11).

Jackets and the Lady’Backs

• The Jackets and Lady’Backs will be meeting for just the second time in history, with Arkansas holding a 1-0 edge in the series.

• The only other game between the two teams was on March 21, 2000 when the Jackets traveled to Fayetteville for the second round of the 2000 WNIT. Arkansas won the contest 78-67.

• While the Yellow Jackets and Lady’Backs have met on just one previous occasion, Arkansas is no stranger to some members of the Georgia Tech women’s basketball staff. Current Yellow Jacket assistant coach Sytia Messer led her Lady’Backs team to the 1998 Final Four and then to the 1999 WNIT Championship and finished her career with 1,379 points and 603 rebounds while serving as a captain her junior and senior seasons. Current Tech administrative assistant Nitra (Perry) Griffith is also familiar with the Arkansas women’s basketball program, as she played against them on several occasions as a member of the Lady’Backs SEC foe Mississippi State team. A native of Arkansas, she finished her career with more than 1,000 points and 700 rebounds and was in the top five in the MSU career annals in rebounds, three-pointers attempted, steals and games played. Finally, prior to her two-year appointment as the top assistant coach for the Yellow Jacket program from 2002-03, current Georgia Tech head coach MaChelle Joseph spent five seasons as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Auburn, where she coached the Tigers to a 97-50 record from 1997-2001. She helped the Tigers to a 5-3 record against the Lady’Backs during her time at Auburn.

Tech, the ACC and the Southeastern Conference

• Georgia Tech is 5-41 all-time against current members of the Southeastern Conference , although it is 2-1 against SEC teams in the last three years.

• The Yellow Jackets are most familiar with instate rival Georgia, who holds a 25-2 advantage in the series, with both of Tech’s victories coming in the last three years.

• There are currently five ACC teams ranked in this week’s polls, with another two earning votes, and there are presently four SEC teams in this week’s AP Poll

• The ACC is currently the top-ranked conference in the WBCA/Summerville RPI, just ahead of the SEC and Pac 10 conferences, as two teams appear in the top-10 (Duke-3, Maryland-6), four more in the top-25 (Florida State-15, Virginia Tech-18, Virginia-19, North Carolina-21), and a total of eight in the top-30 (Georgia Tech-26, NC State-27). Rounding out the RPI standings are ACC members Miami (52), Wake Forest (73) and Clemson (143).

• The SEC is just behind the ACC in the conference rankings, as it also has two teams in the top-10 (Tennessee-1, LSU-2) and one more in the top-25 (Georgia-13). The Southeastern Conference currently has a total of eight teams in the top-50 (Florida-42, Alabama-43, Auburn-45, Mississippi-46, Vanderbilt-49). Rounding out the RPI standings are SEC members Kentucky (64), Arkansas (67), Mississippi State (68), and South Carolina (184).

Last Time Out

The Yellow Jackets couldn’t overcome a slow start and dropped an 83-59 decision to NC State at Alexander Memorial Coliseum Thursday night. Georgia Tech was held to just 13 points in the first half while turning the ball over 15 times in the frame, which led to 18 of the Wolfpack’s 18 points in the half. Stephanie Higgs came on strong for the Yellow Jackets in the second half, recording 22 of her 25 points in the frame, but it wasn’t enough as the Yellow Jackets dropped their sixth conference game of the season. State turned the ball over just 13 times and scored 34 points off the Jackets’ 22 miscues in the game. Tech scored 20 of its 59 points at the free-throw line, where it converted on 20-of-21 (95.2%), including a perfect 9-for-9 mark for Higgs.

Home Games vs. Playing on the Road

After dropping a pair of road games in early December, the Yellow Jackets looked forward to their return to Atlanta, where the they have posted an overall record of 199-156 since the 1979-80 season. The Jackets are 10-4 at home this season after dropping three games at home in January. Conversely, Georgia Tech is 94-194 on the road since 1979-80, and 3-4 this year.

The Jackets hold an edge on the road in shooting percentage, averaging 37.3 percent away from Atlanta and just 36.6 from the field at home, but opponents are hitting 38.6 percent of their shots away from Alexander Memorial Coliseum, while converting on just 36.1 percent at AMC. Meanwhile, the Jackets are converting on just 25.7 percent of their three-point attempts at AMC, but enjoy playing shooting the trey on the road, as they have shot 35.9 percent from beyond the arc away from the Coliseum.

A couple of the most notable differences in scoring are of the Yellow Jackets’ top two underclassmen in Chioma Nnamaka and Stephanie Higgs. Nnamaka is averaging 10.9 points per game at AMC, but is scoring 17.7 points in each of the seven road contests. Conversely, Higgs enjoys playing in Atlanta, where she is averaging 14.8 points per game, while averaging 11.1 points on the road.

Milestone Watch

• After recording five wins to open the season and five more following a pair of losses at Tulsa and St. John’s, the 2004-05 Georgia Tech women’s basketball team helped secure the 400th win in program history with a win at Miami on Jan. 23, 2005 by a score of 62-46 in the first meeting between the two schools as ACC members. It took the team nine seasons to win its first 100 games and nine years to win its next 100. The team recorded its 300th victory on November 28, 1998.

• Sophomore Kentrina Wilson recorded 15 blocked shots this season, which is ninth for most blocked shots by a sophomore.

• Stephanie Higgs’ 11 blocks this season is just one block shy of placing her in the top-10 for most blocks by a sophomore

Jill Ingram is ninth for most steals by a freshman in Georgia Tech history. She currently has 43 steals to her credit in 2004-05. The rookie from Charlotte, NC is also just nine assists away from making the top-10 list for most assists by a freshman, as she has already dished out 58 assists this year.

• Rookie Chioma Nnamaka has scored 275 points in 2004-05, which is good for ninth in the annals for most points scored by a rookie in Georgia Tech history. The last time that a freshman scored more than 260 points was during the 1998-99 season, when Niesha Butler tallied 521 total points during her rookie campaign.

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