By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
On Sunday, the Yellow Jackets cruised past Appalachian State 81-52 on the strength of a school-record 14 3-pointers, on a weekend break from finals.
Antonia Peresson tied her career high by making 5-of-10 from beyond the arc for 15 points, including four in the first half, and graduate transfer Cha’Ron Sweeney made all four of her long ball tries in the second half to finish 5-of-6 from afar on her way to scoring 17.
The Jackets sure looked like they enjoyed their break in McCamish Pavilion from finals, which began Thursday and continue through Wednesday on The Flats with exam breaks over the weekend. Usually, finals cover five straight week days, but they’re spanning through a weekend now.
The stretched-out finals are new.
The treys aren’t.
Tech (9-1) had made at least 10 3-pointers in three consecutive games.
“I think one of the things that’s been good about this type of game for us is we’ve been able to develop our depth, get to see different combinations, getting to see different players in different situations,” head coach MaChelle Joseph said. “I was just really pleased overall with our 3-point shooting.”
Who other than App State (4-5) wouldn’t be happy about making 14-of-27 from beyond the arc?
The Jackets have been bombing away recently, and Peresson’s led the way.
Truth is, the 5-foot-9 business administration major from Pordenone, Italy, last season spent nearly as much time playing the point spot, along with junior Imani Tilford, as she did at the shooting guard and she wasn’t as comfortable shooting while knowing she was tasked with starting the offense.
Not this season.
The arrival of Sweeney, a 5-2 graduate of Eastern Michigan University, and freshman Zutorya Cook to help at point guard has left Peresson in one spot – shooting guard.
She likes it there, although it took her a while to get cozy.
In Tech’s first six games, she made 7-of-22 3-pointers (31.8 percent).
In four games since, she’s made 16-of-43 (37.2 percent).
How might one explain going from 3.7 attempts per game to 10.8?
It’s all about getting back to string music for a young lady who specialized in piano and the cello back home in Italia. She’s tickling the nets.
“That’s what the team needs from me,” Peresson said. “I understand that so I’m starting to buy into my role.”
Joseph and her staff have had to remind Peresson to shoot. That’s a bit surprising considering that in her first two seasons 85 percent of her field goals were 3-pointers (96-of-113).
She’s getting the message.
Peresson hasn’t tried a shot inside the arc in four straight games while taking 43 from outside of it.
“She’s always had a green light, and it’s always been her role,” Joseph said. “It’s about her buying into her role and doing what we need her to do. The more she buys into that role the better we are because it spreads the floor.”
Even Tilford, the least likely Jacket to shoot in the past, is getting in on the act.
She averaged 1.7 points as a freshman and 4.7 as a sophomore while missing all four of her 3-point tries in those two seasons, yet scored nine points Sunday to just miss what would have been her sixth consecutive double-digit scoring game with nine points. Tilford’s made 6-of-13 3-pointers this season, though, and shares Tech’s scoring lead with Pan at 11.2 per game.
Sweeney’s not new to shooting, not after averaging 17.6 points in three seasons at EMU.
The Jackets are going to get deeper, too. Guard Kaylan Pugh, who transferred from Ohio State after the fall semester last year, will be eligible to play beginning with the Dec. 22 game at Middle Tennessee State.
Tech is going to work best when the threat of the 3-pointer is alive, and while Sweeney (14-of-38 for the season) and Pan (20-of-57) have a lot to do with that, Peresson (23-of-65) leads the charge.
“That’s one of the things I told her is there are a lot of teams in the ACC that have that marked woman who you know when she’s on the floor you have to guard her at the 3-point line,” Joseph said. “I’ve always wanted AT to become that person for us, and I think she has become that person.”
Peresson sounds like she’s up for it.
“I’m more confident and comfortable shooting. I know that coach has always given me the green light to shoot so I just grow a little more into my role,” she said. “Getting moved to the shooting guard helps me understand even more where can I get my shots off.”