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#TGW: Starting Five: Georgia Tech (20-11) vs. LSU (19-12)

March 23, 2014

By Jon Cooper

The Good Word

Georgia Tech (No. 10-seed) begins its ninth trip to the NCAA Tournament in school history — the seventh in the MaChelle Joseph Era — this afternoon with a match-up against seventh-seed LSU in a first-round game in the Louisville Region. The first meeting between the schools tips off at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge at 12:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.

The Yellow Jackets come into the Tournament having played some of their best basketball down the stretch. Tech, which led the ACC in offensive rebounding and finished toward the top in scoring (fifth), field goal percentage (sixth) and turnover margin (sixth), yet, surprisingly last in scoring defense, completed its seventh 20-win season under Joseph, winning seven of its final 10 games, including beating No. 13 North Carolina. The Jackets’ only losses were at No. 2/2 Notre Dame, vs. No. 8/9 Maryland, and vs. No. 10/10 Duke in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Senior guard Ty Marshall was selected First-Team All-ACC for the second straight year and to the All-ACC Defensive Team while freshman guard and future First-Teamer Kaela Davis was named Second-Team and All-ACC Freshman.

The Tigers, making their 23rd appearance in the Big Dance and third straight under third-year coach Nikki Caldwell, have dropped eight of their last 10, but five of the losses were by single-digits and five were against ranked teams — at No. 13 Kentucky and No. 19 Texas A&M, vs. No. 5 South Carolina, and twice to No. 5/10/6 Tennessee, the second coming in the SEC Tournament — and three of those losses were by single-digits. LSU finished 10th in the SEC in scoring and rebounding, eighth in scoring defense, seventh in field goal percentage and field goal percentage defense. They ranked sixth in turnover margin and fifth in three-point shooting. The Tigers are led by a pair of seniors: forward Theresa Plaisance, a Second-Team All-SEC selection, and guard Jeanne Kenney, the conference’s second-best three-point shooter and a superb distributor.

In addition to ESPN2’s televised coverage, today’s game also can be heard on WREK, 91.1 FM, or online at with Richard Musterer and LaQuananisha Adams on the call. Fans can get live stats on and get instant updates by following the team on Twitter at @GTWBB. For more information on the team like them on Facebook at GTWomensBasketball.

And now, the Starting Five for today’s game.

Scheduling Difficulties: Head Coach MaChelle Joseph puts her teams through rigorous non-conference schedules every year for a reason — to prepare for games like this. The Jackets played the 20th-toughest schedule in the nation, with 13 games against ranked teams or teams receiving votes. Tech was 2-11 in those games, but eight of those games were played on the road or in neutral sites. LSU Head Coach Nikki Caldwell, who played for the legendary Pat Summitt at Tennessee, similarly believes in difficult scheduling. Her third team made it 3-for-3 in 20-win seasons while maneuvering through a gauntlet that ranked the toughest in the nation. They were 1-8 in the nine games they played against ranked teams and teams receiving votes. The tough scheduling has paid off for both coaches, as Tech is 4-2 in NCAA Tournament Openers under Joseph, having won two straight and reaching the Sweet 16 in 2012, while LSU is 2-0 in Tournament openers under Caldwell, getting to the Sweet 16 last year.

Beating the Zeauxn: Being in the zone against the zone will be crucial for Georgia Tech, as LSU’s zone will test Georgia Tech’s three-point shooting. When going well, downtown is a good place for the Yellow Jackets, who are 11-5 when shooting at least 30 percent from behind the arc. The Jackets hit 170 three-pointers, including a school-record 13 on Nov. 10, in downing Mercer (sixth in the ACC) on 533 attempts (eighth), hitting at a .319 percentage (tied for eighth). Kaela Davis is the team’s marksman (83 3-PTFGMs, .347), but the key today may be junior guard Sydney Wallace. Wallace ranks sixth in school history with 140 3’s (47 this season), and eighth in 3-point field goal percentage (.347, .336 this year). She missed — and was missed –in the ACC Tournament, but is back at 100 percent. Wallace would like to replicate her first NCAA Tournament appearance, when she shot nearly 56.0 percent from three (19-for-34), including 6-of-8 in the opener, as part of a 28-point effort against Sacred Heart. She’d add 23 against Georgetown then a school-record 32 in the Sweet 16 game against eventual-champion Baylor. Wallace showed what a difference-maker she can be this season, hitting 5-of-6 from downtown against Florida State and 4-for-5 against Western Carolina. The Jackets are 8-1 when Wallace shoots her average or better from behind the arc.

A Brief History of Ty: As the storied Georgia Tech career of Tyaunna Marshall heads toward its end, she hopes to write a grand final chapter. She has plenty of incentive, as this is her last NCAA Tournament, about the only place where she hasn’t dominated. In five career games, Marshall has averaged 7.4 points, on 34.7 percent shooting, with 3.6 rebounds. She’s grabbed a total of 14 rebounds, 10 coming in one game, against Baylor, when she had her lone double-double, a 10/10 game. On Tech’s ride to the Sweet 16, she scored but 14 points, and shot 5-for-23. Most surprising is that Marshall, the school’s all-time leader in free throws attempted (569), has only attempted seven foul in her five games. That really hurts, considering she’s 6-for-7. More history awaits Marshall, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, today. Her eighth point will give her a school record for most points in a season (passing Joyce Pierce in 1991-92). While the All-ACC Defensive Team member’s first steal (she already has a career-best 80 this season) would move her into second place in school history, with 279, breaking away from Kisha Ford and Tiffany Martin. Finally, a win today would secure her and her class a career winning record in the NCAAs, as she is 3-2.

That’s ALL-Rookie To You…: As Ty Marshall wraps up her incredible college career, Kaela Davis looks to put a bow on a tremendous freshman season. The 6-2 guard has lived up to her hype, being named All-ACC Second Team and All-ACC Freshman after finishing the year scoring 18.6 ppg (fifth in the conference, tops among freshmen and second on the team behind Marshall) with 27 double-digit scoring games, and seven double-doubles. Her 27 three-point field goals made ranked fourth in the conference, while her 179 rebounds (5.8 rpg) ranked fifth-most ever for a GT freshman. The four-time ACC Rookie of the Week was only the third Yellow Jacket frosh to crack 500 points and will add on to her school’s freshman scoring record of 578 points. Davis, who led the team in three-point shooting (34.7 percent, including, hitting seven 3’s against Alabama A&M on Dec. 7) turned it on in the ACC Tournament, leading the team in scoring at 22.0 ppg, and hitting all seven of Georgia Tech’s three-point field goals — she was 7-for-21, the rest of the team was 0-for-12. She shot 40 percent overall and tied Marshall with 16 FGMs. Tech is 10-4 when Davis scores at least 20.

Old Friends…AFTER the Game: Today’s game will set up a potentially interesting match-up of high school teammates, with Georgia Tech guard Aaliyah Whiteside going up against LSU guard Danielle Ballard. Both are Memphis natives and attended Central High School. In 2011, as juniors, they led to Central a 39-9 record, the TSSAA AAA State Championship (the school’s first in 89 years), and a national No. 11 ranking. Whiteside, a captain of the team for two years and All-State in 2009 and 2011, ranked No. 24 nationally by ESPN HoopGurlz. Ballard was 25th in that same poll, the No. 7 guard and was invited to play with USA Basketball’s U-17 Team Trials in 2011. Ballard, a 5-9 guard, was SEC All-Freshman and All-Defensive Team and Freshman All-America Third Team, and this past season averaged 9.3, points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists, shooting 39.7 percent, 71.9 from the line. Whiteside, a 6-0 guard/forward, was one of three captains (with Shayla Bivins and Kaela Davis), and came on late, becoming a valuable third scoring option. She had a double-double (10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds) in the victory over North Carolina, and nearly had another against Notre Dame, going for a team-high 21 and nine boards. She averaged 8.8 points with 5.9 rebounds in conference play and her three-point play with 13 seconds left in the Tournament opener vs. Virginia proved decisive in the 77-76 win. Whiteside’s 16 3-PTFGMs were third on the team and her 84.6 percent (11-of-13) shooting from the line in crunch time led the Jackets.

The Sixth Man: Georgia Tech has made two previous appearances in the 7-10 game, with mixed results. They won, 55-54, over DePaul as the seven on March 17, 2007 but lost, 58-55, to Iowa as the 10 on March 22, 2008, playing in Des Moines…Georgia Tech and LSU have identical assist/turnover ratio (both 0.8) and are nearly identical in assists per game (Tech 13.4, LSU 12.8), turnovers per game (16.9, 17.0) and turnover margin (plus-2.1, plus-1.8)…The Jackets and Tigers also were alike against their four common opponents. Both lost at Tennessee (the Tigers also lost to the Vols at home and on a neutral floor in the SEC Tournament — coincidentally at The Arena at Gwinnett Center, Georgia Tech’s home floor two seasons ago), at Georgia and to NC State, while both beat up on Hampton at home, winning by 19…Ty Marshall was named the Georgia Women’s Athlete of the Year for the second straight year. It was the fifth straight time and sixth in seven years that a Jacket won the award…Roddreka Rogers, who could be important in the paint, quietly finished 14th in the ACC in rebounding (6.7 rpg) and put up five double-doubles…Georgia Tech’s 79.7 ppg are fifth in the ACC, 20th in the nation and the highest for a Yellow Jackets team since 1990-91 (84.3 ppg).

LSU SCORING LEADER: Theresa Plaisance, 15.6 ppg

LSU SCORING LEADER (SEC): Theresa Plaisance, 17.7 ppg

LSU REBOUNDING LEADER: Theresa Plaisance, 7.6 rpg

LSU REBOUNDING LEADER (SEC): Theresa Plaisance, 7.6 rpg

LSU ASSISTS LEADER: Jeanne Kenney, 3.5 apg

LSU ASSISTS LEADER (SEC): Jeanne Kenney, 3.6 apg

OPPONENT/ACC: 70.9/75.8 ppg

LSU SCORING/SEC: 69.6/66.9 ppg
OPPONENT/SEC: 64.3/66.2 ppg

LSU PLAYER TO WATCH: Theresa Plaisance – The 6-5 senior forward is one of the most versatile players in the nation. Plaisance was top 10 in the SEC in scoring, rebounding, field goal- and free throw percentage, offensive rebounding and blocked shots in being named First-Team All-SEC, a National Player of the Year Candidate and a Ward Trophy and Wooden Award nominee. She led the Tigers with 28 double-figure games, eight double-digit rebounding games, six 20-plus-point scoring games and eight double-doubles. She can make life difficult for opponents from behind the arc as well as inside, as she shot .381 percent from downtown and was third on the team with 24 three-point field goals made.

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