Jan. 5, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
As the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team has moved into conference play, the Yellow Jackets have had no choice but to evolve and results were abundantly positive Sunday when they beat Clemson 74-66 in their ACC home opener.
In a way, that game was standard for the Jackets (11-5, 1-1 ACC) as sophomore Kaela Davis helped lead the way with 17 points in McCamish Pavilion.
Beyond that, there were changes aplenty, many of them dictated by the loss of senior guard Sydney Wallace to a Dec. 29 knee injury.
Freshman Zaire O’Neal returned to the starting lineup, and against the Tigers (9-6, 1-1) she pitched in plenty with 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Junior Aaliyah Whiteside added 17 points and a game-high seven assists, and junior Roddreka Rogers had 16 points and a whopping, career-high 18 rebounds. Whiteside has marked her return to the starting lineup by scoring 17 points in each of the last three games.
“With the loss of Sydney Wallace, you never know how a team is going to respond, but Aaliyah Whiteside and Roddreka Rogers have taken on more responsibility,” head coach MaChelle Joseph said after becoming the winningest women’s basketball coach in Tech history with a mark of 224-139 to Agnus Berenato’s record of 223-209.
Davis had seven rebounds to help Tech win the battle of the boards, 49-36. Rogers by herself grabbed half as many rebounds as all Clemson players.
“Those are like Charles Barkley numbers,” Joseph said. “I don’t know anybody who’s had 18 rebounds . . . I thought rebounding was the key. They played us 40 minutes of zone; that’s tough to play against.”
The Jackets worked off of Rogers’ ninth career double-double to score 30 points in the paint.
After Rogers’ layup tied the game at six with 15:47 remaining in the first half, the Jackets never trailed again. Another Rogers layup gave Tech the lead for good, at 10-8, with 14:33 to go. From that point, Clemson never again even tied the game and the Jackets moved to a 38-28 halftime lead with 18 paint points.
Three times in the second half, Tech expanded its lead to 16 points.
Just about each time the Tigers whittled the margin back down to single digits, the Jackets would find success inside to remain comfortably ahead.
“One of the things we talked about is we were taking shots too quick,” Joseph said. “We just need to slow down, get the ball in the paint.”