#TGW: Unfinished Business
Yellow Jackets let one get away against UGA
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
There was a time when Georgia Tech losing to Top-25 Georgia by seven points would have been cause for celebration and talk of what can be.
On Sunday afternoon at McCamish Pavilion, following the 64-57 loss to the No. 24 Bulldogs, the Yellow Jackets’ talk was of introspection and what should have been.
“This is a disappointing loss for us. We’re at the time in our program where we feel like we should be able to win this game,” said head coach MaChelle Joseph, whose team lost for the first time in 2013-14 but for the fourth straight time to Georgia. “We had one more field goal than Georgia. We lost the game at the free throw line. They shot 90 percent from the free throw line, we shot 60 percent from the free throw line. That’s a big difference in the game. They outrebounded us by 10. We come into games like this you have to make free throws and lay-ups. At halftime we missed eight layups and five free throws. You can’t play a top-25 team and miss lay-ups and free throws.”
Tech shot better in the second half, but could not hit the big shot when they needed to and struggled offensively all day.
“I wasn’t expecting us to come in and not be able to score,” said Joseph, whose team had averaged over 90 points per game coming in. “That was really the thing that surprised me the most. We’ve been able to score night in and night out consistently so it’s a little disappointing we weren’t able to get it done on the offensive end.”
Tech shot 3-for-19 from behind the arc, 1-for-7 in the final 20 minutes. The three three-point field goals made hurt enough, but Joseph was as disappointed in the 19 attempts.
“We took too many three-point shots. When they’re playing man-to-man, and we shoot 19 three’s that’s too many,” said Joseph. “We should have been attacking, getting the ball inside, let our posts touch the ball and start getting some good shots. That’s something I’ve been trying to preach to this team all year long because people are going to key on Sydney [Wallace] and Kaela [Davis] and our perimeter players. So if we don’t have an established inside game defense is going to get wider and wider and our shots are going to come from deeper and deeper. So it’s really important that when we play, in any game, but particularly when we play a top-25 team, you’ve got to get post touches. You have to have an established inside game. That’s the only way to beat a top-25 team.
“We talked at halftime about getting more post touches, especially to [Roddreka Rogers] inside,” Joseph continued. “We had their post players in foul trouble and we missed opportunities to go back at them. We forced up some jump shots and maybe took some shots where we did not understand. That’s my fault.”
The Jackets players took the blame for not making more points in the paint and at the line. Tech got two fouls each on forwards Merritt Hempe, Haley Clark and Marjorie Butler, and held a 12-8 edge on points in the paint and a 9-4 edge in second-chance points at intermission, but Joseph felt they could have had more, especially if they’d gotten Rogers more touches. The junior forward, who just missed her third double-double (13 points, eight rebounds, and a game-high four blocked shots) was 2-for-4 and 1-for-2 from the line in the first half, but four shots out of the teams 36 field goal attempts just wasn’t enough.
“Like Coach said, the post should have touched the ball more,” said Rogers. “We should have dominated their post players. OnceI realized I could score I realized I needed to step up for my team and make as many shots as I possibly could. Then when they did pass it to me I could pass it out to my teammates and get them open three-point shots and they could attack the basket as well. it was basically ball-movement really.”
The Jackets shot 33.9 percent for the game, including 27.8 in the first half, and only 63.2 percent from the free throw line, missing 12 of 19 tries. They missed five of eight in the first half, which finished 27-25 Georgia.
“We’ve got to finish. We just kind of beat ourselves out of this one, honestly,” said Davis, who finished with a team-high 20 points, but shot 8-for-18 and 1-for-5 from downtown. “If we come out and finish and make free-throws, I think it’s a lot different game than the game we went out there and played.”
Inability to finish the first half typified the day’s frustration. With 3:24 left, the Jackets had put together a 6-0 run to take a 25-22 lead, and appeared poised to do more damage. Davis grabbed an offensive rebound of an Antonia Peresson missed free throw. Davis missed a three-point attempt, but Peresson grabbed the rebound. Davis missed a mid-range jumper. Guard Sydney Wallace pulled in that rebound and worked the ball to forward Aaliyah Whiteside. But Whiteside misfired on her jumper. Finally, Georgia got the ball. It was 50 seconds of hopes and dashed hopes for Tech.
The Jackets would hit a deeper valley in the half’s final 55 seconds, as they did not execute and allowed a 5-0 run by Georgia forward Shacobia Barbee, resulting in a 27-25 deficit at the break.
Tech would lead one time in the final 20, for 32 seconds. Although they’d stick around the shots just wouldn’t fall.
“I would have never guessed that Sydney [Wallace] and Kaela would go 2-for-13 from the three-point line,” Joseph said. “They’ve been shooting the ball particularly well, along with Antonia [Peresson], who was 0-for-3, so between the three of them you’re talking 2-for-15. I never would have predicted that. We were averaging nine made threes a game. So we’ve come to rely on those points. We just weren’t able to knock them down tonight.”
Joseph was pleased with the defense, although she said the rebounding disparity (Tech was outrebounded 45-35) would not stand.
Moving forward, Joseph feels the team not only needs to get Rogers more touches but also to get in touch with Rogers’ intensity.
“We definitely have to match her intensity level and urgency,” she said. “Tonight we didn’t have an urgency. You play a team like this you have to have an urgency. I felt like we just showed up like we were playing the last three games and that’s not how you have to play a game of this magnitude. I just didn’t feel like we had the passion and the urgency that we needed to have in a game like this. [Rogers] has to be that person to kind of set that tone but we have to have other people step up and want to play with that kind of urgency. Everybody who came on the floor tonight didn’t have that urgency. We’ve got to find it and we’ve got to understand what it takes at this level to compete night in and night out.”
Joseph promised those things would be fixed by the time the team takes the floor on Friday against Green Bay at next weekend’s Gulf Coast Showcase, in Naples. Both Green Bay and Arizona State, who could be Tech’s opponent Saturday, were “Receiving Votes,” putting them just on the cusp of the top 25.
She feels Sunday should provide a learning experience.
“Now we’ve played [a top-25 team],” she said. “We have several on our schedule in the next couple of weeks. We all have to go back and look at ourselves and ask, ‘What could I have done differently?’
“I can guarantee you next week when we’re in Naples that we’ll have a chance against those top-25 teams,” she added. “Night in and night out we’re going to have to make plays. We just have to finish and we will.”