#TGW: Starting Five: Georgia Tech (7-4) @ St. Francis Brooklyn (3-7)
The Yellow Jackets head to Brooklyn for a Saturday afternoon matchup with Terriers
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Georgia Tech looks to continue to build momentum heading into the Christmas break as it makes a quick stop in Brooklyn on Saturday to take on the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers of the Northeast Conference. Tip-off at the Pope Physical Education Center in Brooklyn Heights is set for noon.
The Yellow Jackets made it three straight wins on Wednesday night at McCamish Pavilion, blowing out Alabama State, 77-53. Kaela Davis scored a career-high 33 points, 19 of them in the first half, nailing six three-pointers (one off her career high), to lead three double-digit scorers. The Jackets used a 20-4 run over the final seven minutes of the first half to break open a tight game and take a 45-25 lead into the break. The lead would not get below 17 in the second half. Tech dominated the glass, holding a 55-42 edge. The Jackets grabbed 25 offensive rebounds leading to 23 second-chance points (they had a 23-6 edge in that category, 9-0 in the first half), and took advantage of turnovers, outscoring the Lady Hornets 12-0 off 15 miscues in the first half and 19-6 overall. Freshman forward Zaire O’Neil just missed her second straight double-double, with 10 points and eight rebounds. O’Neil was one of four Jackets to grab eight boards.
The Terriers are looking to change their luck, as they’ve lost three in a row, the last two by a total of eight points. St. Francis dropped a 63-61 heartbreaker to Vermont Wednesday night, in a game that saw 11 ties and 10 lead changes. The loss was their fourth this season by seven-or-fewer points. Senior forward Sarah Benedetti led the way with 17 points, including her 1,000th career point in the first half. St. Francis led 34-29 at the half but shot only 26.9 percent in the second half (23.3 from three), and made only one field goal over the game’s final four minutes, as the Catamounts put together an 8-1 burst to snap a 55-55 tie. But the stubborn Terriers fought back and even shot for the win in the final seconds, but Benedetti’s three-point attempt at the buzzer didn’t go. Junior guard Leah Fechko had 13 points and senior guard Eilidh Simpson added 11, while senior forward Jaymee Veney pulled down a game-high nine rebounds and senior guard Katie Fox handed out nine assists.
Today's game will be the third meeting between the schools. Georgia Tech has won both easily, doubling the Terriers, 90-45, on Dec. 29, 1998 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, then walloping them again the following Dec. 21, 91-60, in Brooklyn. The wins are part of the Yellow Jackets’ domination of the Northeast Conference, against which the Jackets have never lost, boasting a perfect 13-0 record.
The game can be heard on WREK, 91.1 FM, or online at www.WREK.org with Richard Musterer and Hannah Gebresilassie on the call. Fans can get live stats on RamblinWreck.com and also can get instant updates by following the team on Twitter at @GTWBB and can get more information on the team by liking them on Facebook, GTWomensBasketball.
And now, the Starting Five for Saturday’s game.
The Last Time We Met: The Yellow Jackets used a stifling second-half defense to shut down St. Francis (N.Y.) and used a 25-6 run early in the second 20 to pull away from the Terriers, winning 91-60 on Dec. 21, 1999. Junior Jaime Kruppa had 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Jackets had four double-figure scorers. Tech took a 45-34 lead into the break despite the home team shooting 61.9 percent and making five three-point field goals. In the second half, however, it was a different story, as the Jackets limited the Terriers to 31.0 percent shooting and tightened up at the perimeter, where St. Francis made only one three-pointer in 10 attempts. Tech forced 26 turnovers in the victory and nearly doubled the Terriers in rebounding, holding a 44-25 edge, pulling in 22 offensive boards.
Wooden It Be Nice: Sophomore guard Kaela Davis is playing like the Wooden Award Watch List Candidate she is. Davis begins play this weekend ranked third in the ACC in scoring, with 19.5 ppg, is tied for fourth in three-point field goals made, canning 2.5 per game (technically she’s fifth, as her 27 3PTFGMs are one fewer than Virginia Tech’s Vanessa Panousis), and leads the ACC in minutes played, logging 35.4 minutes per game. That’s a more than a minute per game more than the nearest player, Wake Forest’s Dearica Hamby (34.3 mpg). Davis scored a career-high 33 points in Georgia Tech’s win over Alabama State, giving 20 career games in which she’s scored at least 20 points. The Jackets are 14-6 in those games. Davis’ 19.5 ppg, is 6.2 ppg more than the nearest Yellow Jacket (Sydney Wallace) and she has 26 more field goals (80) and five more three-point field goals (27) than her nearest teammate (also Wallace).
Inside the Octagon: The Yellow Jackets swarmed the boards against Alabama State, pulling down a season-high 55 rebounds, led by the quartet of Davis, Roddreka Rogers, Zaire O’Neil and Katarina Vuckovic, each of whom grabbed eight. The eight boards for each was special. Davis matched her season high with the eight boards, including a team-high five on the offensive end, and they were the most she’d grabbed in six games. Rogers, who is fifth in the ACC in rebounding (9.6 rpg) and sixth in defensive rebounding (6.1 drpg), had her eighth game of the season with at least eight rebounds. O’Neil’s eight gave her 21 in two games and made it back-to-back games with at least eight boards — she hadn’t grabbed more than six in a game prior to her 13-rebound effort Sunday against Central Arkansas — and Vuckovic’s eight were a season-best and matched her career high.
Deja Vuck: Vuckovic’s eight-rebound effort against Alabama State had a familiar look to it and it should have. The 6-3 sophomore forward also pulled down eight rebounds in last year’s game against the Lady Hornets. There was a subtle difference between the two, however, as this year she had two offensive rebounds and six on the defensive end as opposed to last year when she grabbed four of each. Her strength on the glass also is looking familiar, as Kat has pulled down 31 rebounds over her last five games (6.2 rpg), and has finished with at least six rebounds in three of the last four games. Vuckovic had three games with at least six rebounds her entire freshman season. The 6.2 rpg more than doubles her production over the season’s first six games, when she averaged 3.0 per game. The 18 rebounds she had in that season-opening span matches the number she’s pulled down over the last three games.
0-Really?: Sydney Wallace’s going without a three-point field goal on Wednesday night (she was 0-for-5) is newsworthy, as it was only the second time this season she did not make a three-point shot. The 0-fer is bad newsworthy for St. Francis, as the other time that Wallace went without a three (Nov. 29 vs. Villanova, at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Naples, Fla.) she bounced back with a vengeance. The senior guard nailed nine of her next 18 three-point attempts over the ensuing two games, going 4-for-8 against RV Minnesota (opponents shoot .318 from three) then 5-for-10 at No. 16 Michigan State (opponents shoot .281 from downtown). Wallace is shooting .393 from behind the arc this season, 73 points higher than last season and 46 points north of her career average. Wallace enters Saturday’s game 23 points shy of becoming the 27th Yellow Jacket to reach 1,000 points.
The Sixth Man: Georgia Tech has forced 44 turnovers over the last two games and has cashed them in for 51 points...Freshman point guard Antonia Peresson has had back-to-back clean games for the first time this season and has had two-or-fewer turnovers in seven of her last eight games during which she’s had a nearly 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio (18 assists vs. 10 turnovers). Peresson had nine turnovers in her first three games (three in each)...So much for freshman jitters. Freshmen O’Neil, De’Ashia Jones, Peresson and Simina Avram are shooting a combined 9-for-12 in free throws in crunch time (the final 5:00 of the game and overtime). O’Neil, Jones and Peresson have missed just once (O’Neil and Jones are 3-for-4, Peresson is 1-for-2), while Avram is 2-for-2. Tech is .824 (28-for-34). Not coincidentally, the Jackets are 7-1 when leading with five minutes to play...The Jackets’ commitment to the glass against Alabama State was team-wide, as every player that was on the floor more than two minutes had at least one rebound...Aaliyah Whiteside grabbed four offensive rebounds in a game Wednesday night for the fifth time this season. It was the first time in six games she had four ORs. Whiteside had three total offensive rebounds over the previous four games...Freshman guard Imani Tillford is making the most of her time, as she’s recorded an assist in four of the last five games in which she’s appeared and has five assists (vs. three turnovers) in 31 minutes of action...With her 4-for-7 shooting against Alabama State, O’Neil is shooting .690 percent over her last three games (20-for-29).
GEORGIA TECH SCORING LEADER: Kaela Davis, 19.5 ppg
ST. FRANCIS BROOKLYN SCORING LEADER: Eilidh Simpson, 11.7 ppg
GEORGIA TECH REBOUNDING LEADER: Roddreka Rogers, 9.6 rpg
ST. FRANCIS BROOKLYN REBOUNDING LEADER: Jaymee Veney, 7.3 rpg
GEORGIA TECH ASSISTS LEADER: Antonia Peresson, 2.7 apg
ST. FRANCIS BROOKLYN ASSISTS LEADER: Katie Fox, 3.7 apg
GEORGIA TECH SCORING: 77.8 ppg
OPPONENT: 63.4 ppg
ST. FRANCIS BROOKLYN SCORING: 54.5 ppg
OPPONENT: 62.9 ppg
ST. FRANCIS BROOKLYN PLAYER TO WATCH: Sarah Benedetti - Last season’s sixth man has become one of the key go-to scorers for the Terriers, especially from three-point range. The 5-10 senior forward became the school’s all-time leader in three-point field goals made on Dec. 8 and in St. Francis’ last game became the 13th member of the school’s 1,000-point club. Benedetti has come on after a slow start, as after recording one double-digit scoring game over her first five and averaging 6.8 ppg, she’s scored in double-figures in each of the last five games, averaging 15.2 ppg, Benedetti’s hit for a season-high 17 in each of the last two games and has hit 16 three-point field goals over the last five.