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Williams' Heroics Lift Yellow Jackets Over Blue Demons, 55-54

March 17, 2007

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – While stumbling last season to a 2-12 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were preparing for games like these.

Jacqua Williams sent Georgia Tech to the school’s first women’s NCAA tournament victory, swishing a running one-handed shot in the lane with 2 1/2 seconds left to lift the seventh-seeded Yellow Jackets past 10th-seeded DePaul 55-54 on Saturday in a Dallas Regional first-round game.

“Our motto was finishing all year, and I wanted to play another game,” said Williams, who had 10 points, a career-high three blocks and six steals. She now has 91 steals for the season, one off Kisha Ford’s school single season-record set in 1992. Her winner gave Georgia Tech (21-11) its first lead since 5:57 remained before halftime.

Chioma Nnamaka’s long jumper with 26 seconds remaining pulled the Yellow Jackets within one, and then Blue Demons senior Jenna Rubino was pressured near the sideline and stepped out of bounds to give Georgia Tech the final possession.

Nnamaka’s shot was mistakenly called a 3-pointer by the public address announcer and scoreboard operator, which frustrated DePaul coach Doug Bruno. His team reacted as if the game was tied, and Bruno argued afterward that Rubino would not have been attacking the press so aggressively if she knew the Blue Demons (19-13) were still leading.

“We can sit here and point our fingers at someone, maybe the announcer, or we can look in the mirror and ask ourselves, `How many times did we have a chance to make a layup or how many chances in the second half did we have to make a key defensive stop?”‘ said Bruno, who blamed himself for not watching the official’s two-point signal following Nnamaka’s shot.

After the turnover, Jill Ingram missed a jumper for the Yellow Jackets, but after the rebound Williams was there to push Georgia Tech into the second round to play Purdue on Monday night at 9:30 p.m. ET. The game will air on one of the ESPN family of networks.

Coach MaChelle Joseph came screaming and running onto the court to hug her players, celebrating the turnaround from a trying previous year in the tough ACC while using mostly freshmen and sophomores. On the other end, Rubino pulled her blue jersey over her face and bent over with deep disappointment.

“We needed to be stronger with the ball,” said Rubino, who completed her career with 1,314 points. “At the end, we weren’t strong with the ball – and they took advantage of it.”

Allie Quigley scored 17 points and Rubino had 12 points for DePaul, which held Georgia Tech leading scorer Stephanie Higgs to two points on 0-for-8 shooting and harassed the Yellow Jackets into a 4-for-22 performance from 3-point range.

The Blue Demons, one of eight schools from the Big East to make the tournament, finished 10th in the 16-team conference after an injury-influenced regular season that forced Bruno to use 10 different starting lineups. Five players missed a total of 105 games, but DePaul found full strength in early February and built enough momentum to earn a fifth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Nnamaka and Janie Mitchell each had 14 points for Georgia Tech, which went 7 1/2 minutes without a field goal until Nnamaka’s fastbreak layup cut the lead to 46-43. The Blue Demons, meanwhile, were mired in a scoreless slump that lasted roughly the same amount of time and allowed the Yellow Jackets to crawl within one point at 49-48 with 4:25 left on Nnamaka’s 3-pointer.

Nnamaka and Mitchell both added 11 rebounds, a career-high for Nnamaka and gave her first double-double of the season, while Mitchell notched her fourth.

“I just felt like if we continued with our defense and our rebounding, that opportunities were going to present themselves,” Joseph said.


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