Jan. 29, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Next Game: Tonight, 7:00 p.m., vs. Clemson at McCamish Pavilion
There was a cruel irony to Kaela Davis’ final field goal attempt on Sunday afternoon, a buzzer-beating heave from about 35 feet away that thumped against the backboard and went in, providing the final points of Georgia Tech’s 80-73 loss to No. 23 NC State at McCamish Pavilion.
It was only Davis’ second basket of the game and her first in seven tries from three-point range. It put a wrap on a frustrating game for the talented freshman and her teammates, who hung with the Wolfpack, getting their big inside threat Markeisha Gatling, in early first-half foul trouble, and overcoming a 14-point deficit to take a second-half lead, only to be done in by the lack of a perimeter game. Tech didn’t have an answer to State’s perimeter game in the first half, as Gatling played four minutes, then to the inside game in the second when she returned.
Every time Tech seemingly had the answer, State changed the question.
“I thought if our starters could play their roles I thought our bench could outplay their bench,” said head coach MaChelle Joseph afterward. “You look at the bench scoring we had 27 points from our bench, they only had six. But our starters had to match. They had to play their role. Obviously, they held Kaela Davis to five points. If Kaela gets her average it’s a different game.”
Joseph wasn’t blaming Davis, who finished with 2-for-10, 1-for-7 from three-point range and didn’t get to the foul line for only the second time this season. She understands that games like Sunday are part of the process of growing up on the biggest stage in Women’s D-I College Basketball.
“It’s one of those things for a freshman,” said Joseph. “She commands so much respect when she’s on the floor that it’s a lot of pressure on her as a freshman. She has done such a great job of being consistent.”
Conference play is the toughest part for first-year players like Davis. There’s enough film out now, that opposing coaches can better scheme and they will try everything to stop her. Davis has seen every scheme opposing coaches can throw at her, most in vain, like the box-and-one that Virginia Tech employed to deny Davis the ball, which worked for a half but eventually failed. On Sunday, Davis had to deal with junior Krystal Barrett, one of the ACC’s premier lockdown defenders, shadowing her. That was a plan that worked.
Wolfpack coach Wes Moore recognized how special Davis and running mate Ty Marshall are and how his squad needed to deal with them.
“We stressed that those two that we match up with them and try to make them work a little bit to get the ball,” he said. “But then we wanted everybody else cheating towards them and looking to provide some help. Obviously, we didn’t do too good of a job on Marshall. She still had her normal stats (Marshall went for a game-high 23 points on 9-for-17 shooting, 1-for-2 from three, 4-for-8 from the line).”
Davis’ stats were anything but normal. That’s something that Moore knows probably won’t last.
“I think with Kaela, she’s an awesome player, obviously, one of the top recruits in the country a year ago,” he said. “She’s a freshman. She’s going to have a day here and there where she may be a little up and down, the shot’s not going. But I do think Krystal Barrett did a great job on her and shadowed her pretty well most of the day. We usually have Krystal on the other team’s best perimeter scorer and I thought she did a nice job.”
It’s bounce-back time for the Yellow Jackets, which, as Joseph pointed out needed better than 22.2 percent shooting from three (4-for-18), better than 55.0 percent shooting from the foul line (11-for-20), and a much better effort on the boards, where they were outrebounded for the second straight game (36-33 by State).
Joseph expects a strong effort tonight against Clemson and from Davis, preferring to file Sunday under “Just one of those days.”
“I just don’t think Kaela found her niche today,” said Joseph. “She usually comes out real aggressive and attacking and I didn’t feel like today that she was able to do that. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen her have that kind of reaction in a game. We’ll go back and watch the tape and sit with her and watch it and kind of evaluate how we can get better.”
It shouldn’t take long to see the improvement.
There is precedent and it doesn’t bode well for Clemson Coach Audra Smith and her Tigers.
The last time Davis had a two-field goal game was Jan. 5, the ACC opener against Duke. The next game, she responded, scoring a game-high 26 points on 8-for-14 shooting 2-for-6 from three and 8-for-10 from the line as Tech crushed Clemson, 89-68, at Littlejohn Coliseum.
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