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#TGW Starting Five: @GTWBB at No. 16 Michigan State

Dec. 4, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

Georgia Tech’s rugged non-conference slate takes another tough turn on Thursday, when the Yellow Jackets visit East Lansing to take on No. 16/16 Michigan State in the annual ACC/Big-10 Challenge. Tip-off at the Breslin Center is set for 7:00 p.m.

The Yellow Jackets, who are playing their fourth game in the last six against teams in the top 25 or receiving votes, look to continue their success in the Challenge, where they are 6-1 all-time and 1-0 against Michigan State.

The Jackets are coming off a 1-2 showing in the Gulf Coast Showcase, absorbing a loss to Green Bay then a tough three-point defeat to Minnesota which sandwiched a win over Villanova. Tech dropped a 72-69 decision on Sunday to the Golden Gophers in the finale of the Showcase, despite a furious second-half rally that saw them come all the way back from a 13-point deficit. Tech trailed 54-41 with 13:53 to play, before going on an 18-2 run to take a 59-56 lead with 7:30 to go ti take a three-point lead. However the Gophers outscored the Jackets 9-3 over the final 3:49, to take the game. Sydney Wallace led the Jackets with 16, Kaela Davis added 15 and freshman forward Zaire O’Neil added 12 off the bench. Tech had four different players make at least two three-point field goals (Wallace, 4, Davis, point Antonia Peresson and forward Katarina Vuckovic each had two).

The Spartans come in riding a three-game home-winning streak, blasting Miami (Ohio), 85-39, on Sunday. Senior guard Anna Morrissey had 17 and redshirt junior forward Aerial Powers added a double-double as all five Spartans starters scored in double figures. Michigan State shot a season-best 58.1 percent in the first half in taking a 41-19 lead into the break and never looked back. The 39 points were the fewest allowed by MSU since allowing 35 to Oregon State on Dec. 19, 2012, while the margin of victory was the most since a 50-point thrashing of Colgate last Dec. 29.

Tonight’s game can be heard on WREK, 91.1 FM, or online at with Richard Musterer and Hannah Gebresilassie on the call. Fans can get live stats on and can get instant updates by following the team on Twitter at @GTWBB and get more information on the team by liking them on Facebook, GTWomensBasketball.

And now, the Starting Five for tonight’s renewal of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The Last Time We Met: Georgia Tech got superb guard play from sophomore Alex Montgomery and senior Jacqua Williams and sophomore forward Deja Foster chipped in a career-high 13, as the Yellow Jackets bounced back from an early 12-point first-half deficit to knock off No. 21 Michigan State, 70-57, at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 3, 2008, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Montgomery scored a game-high 20 points and Williams added 18 for the Jackets, who trailed 14-2 five minutes in. Tech shot 33.3 percent from three (7-for-21), with Montgomery and Williams hitting five of the team’s seven three-pointers. The two guards each hit a three in the final minute of the first half as Tech turned a 26-22 deficit with 60 seconds left into a 28-26 halftime edge. Foster scored five points in a decisive 12-2 run that put the Jackets ahead for good midway through the second half. Montgomery and Brigitte Ardossi each grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. The Jackets forced 28 turnovers and outscored the Spartans 26-12 off miscues. Tech also outscored MSU 17-2 at the foul line, making 17-of-20 from the stripe for the game, 15 of 16 in the second half.

The Not-So-Big 10: Georgia Tech has had great success against the Big Ten and especially the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, having won six of seven games. The Jackets are 4-0 at home in the Challenge and are 2-1 on the road. They’ve beaten Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State, Michigan State, Iowa and Illinois. The lone loss came against No. 14/13 Purdue in 2012-13. In addition to improving their record in the Challenge, a win over MSU would give Tech a 13-5 all-time mark against the Big Ten and even the Jackets’ record against the conference this season, as they fell to Minnesota in their last game.

The Roaring 20s: With her 24-point game against Villanova on Saturday, sophomore guard Kaela Davis has now scored at least 20 points in three of Tech’s last five games and 18 times in her college career. With 40 games played, that means Davis, a Wooden Award Watch List member, is going for 20 just about every other game. Davis reaching the 20-point mark usually bodes well for the Georgia Tech, as the Jackets are 13-5 in such games, 3-1 in `14-15. Davis brings a streak of 20 straight double-figure-scoring games into East Lansing, dating back to last season. She’s hit for double-digits in all eight games thus far and hasn’t been held to single-digits since Jan. 26, 2014 by NC State, when she scored five points in an 80-73 loss to the No. 23/24 Wolfpack at McCamish Pavilion. Sunday’s game against Villanova marked the 21st time in her career that Davis has led the Jackets in scoring.

Good in the Clutch: The later a game gets the better Georgia Tech seems to get from the foul line. The Yellow Jackets, who shoot .755 from the stripe on the season, turn it up to .840 over the final five minutes and overtime (21-for-25). Forward Aaliyah Whiteside is the big money at the line, shooting 90 percent, having made nine of 10 late FTAs. The rest of the team is a combined 8-for-11, and while the sample size on everyone else is still kind small — only freshman forward De’Ashia Jones has as many as four attempts, of which she’s made three — the other five Jackets have shown themselves to be reliable late-game options. Freshman forward Zaire O’Neil (3-for-3), Davis and Sydney Wallace (both 2-for-2) are perfect, while junior power forward Roddreka Rogers and freshman point Antonia Peresson have split their two opportunities.

Triple Doublers: Georgia Tech’s ability to spread the wealth offensively has been borne out by the fact that the Yellow Jackets have had three players score in double figures in all eight games this season. The usual suspects in double-figure scoring are Davis, who has had at least 10 points in every game, Sydney Wallace, who has done so in seven of the eight games and forward Aaliyah Whiteside, who has scored at least 10 points in five games. Davis, Wallace and Whiteside all are scoring at least 10 points a game and all rank in the top 26 in the ACC.

The Sixth Man: Davis’ next three-point field goal will be the 100th of her career. Her second one will put her into a tie for 10th place on the school’s all-time list…Davis has been as sensational off the court and was recognized by being named to the 2015 Allstate WBCA and NABC Good Works Team for her off-the-court work in the community…The Yellow Jackets have led in second-chance points in all but one game — they tied on Friday against Green Bay — and have held opponents under 10 second-chance points six times…Georgia Tech is 5-0 when leading with 10 minutes left and when leading at the half…Tech is 5-0 when scoring at least 70 points and are 0-3 when scoring under 70…Katarina Vuckovic’s seven rebounds against Minnesota was a team-best, a season-best, one off her career-best, set last Dec. 29 against Alabama State…O’Neil matched her career-highs in field goals made (5) and assists (4) against Minnesota…Wallace matched her career-high with four three-pointers in scoring a team-high 16 against the Golden Gophers…Antonia Peresson has at least three assists in three of Tech’s last four games and has had an even or positive assists-to-turnover ratio in four of the last five. GEORGIA TECH SCORING LEADER: Kaela Davis, 18.3 ppg


GEORGIA TECH ASSISTS LEADER: Antonia Peresson, 3.1 apg

OPPONENT: 64.4 ppg

OPPONENT: 56.0 ppg

MICHIGAN STATE PLAYER TO WATCH: Aerial Powers – The 6-0 redshirt sophomore forward does it all, as she paces the team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and even blocked shots. The Detroit native ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring and second in rebounding and defensive rebounding (9.8, also second in the nation). She’s been a double-double machine, recording one in each of the first five games of the season, the first Spartan ever to accomplish the feat, and has one in nine her last 11 games, during which she’s gone for 16.5 ppg and 11.5 rpg. On Sunday, Powers not only had a 10-10 double-double but also handed out a career-best seven assists while tying her career-high with a pair of blocks and made three steals in 22 minutes.

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