After completing arguably the toughest two-game stretch on its schedule with a historic victory over second-ranked North Carolina and a tough road loss against fourth-ranked Duke, the women’s basketball team continued ACC play with three games in a six-day span—and reached a milestone in the process. The Jackets returned home and earned a pair of wins, defeating Miami 68-42 and Clemson 49-41, before falling on the road against Wake Forest, 68-60.
The win over Clemson was the 100th career victory for Head Coach MaChelle Joseph, who took the job in 2003 after eleven years as a highly successful assistant coach. After starring on the court at Purdue from 1988-92, she spent nine years as a assistant coach at Illinois, Purdue and Auburn before joining longtime Tech coach Agnus Berenato’s staff in 2001. Joseph took over the head job in 2003 after Berenato’s departure. After initially struggling she has guided the team to back-to-back 20-win seasons and NCAA tournament berths. Her mark of 100 regular-season wins is second in Tech history behind only Berenato, who went 223-209 in 15 seasons as head coach.
The Jackets entered last Thursday’s game against Miami knowing that wins in the next two home games would secure the milestone for their coach. It was a contest early on, as the Hurricanes were able to keep pace with the Jackets and reach a 10-10 tie after five minutes.
However, after that point Tech pulled away, stringing together a 13-0 run in which five players scored a basket. Sophomore guard Deja Foster, who started in place of senior Jacqua Williams, scored four of her team-leading 12 points during the run as the Jackets built up a lead that they would not relinquish. Tech’s stifling defense produced a 35-17 halftime lead; in that first half, the team held Miami to just six field goals on 29 attempts for a field goal percentage of 20.7, including a 3-for-20 mark on shots from inside the arc.
The second half went just as smoothly for the Jackets, as the team maintained its strong defense and rode a very balanced attack to an easy 68-42 victory. Miami had two players in double figures in points, but leading scorer for the Canes Shenise Johnson scored just four points shooting one-for-six and committed six turnovers and three fouls. Foster’s 12 points, all in the first half, and her six assists both led the Jackets; sophomore guard Alex Montgomery added 11 points and eight rebounds, and freshman center Sasha Goodlett had 11 points to go with three blocks.
“Everybody was knocking their shots down, and we had a great first half…this was a great way to bounce back [after the Duke game],” Foster said.
Sunday’s win over Clemson saw Joseph finally cross the 100-win plateau, but not in spectacular fashion, as the Jackets stumbled to a 49-41 win over the Tigers. The Jackets opened by missing their first nine field goal attempts, and they did not score until Montgomery hit a pair of free throws 6:23 into the game.
With just over five minutes left in the first half, Tech went on a 9-0 run that, in addition to giving them the lead, accounted for nearly half the team’s points in the first half. Another strong defensive performance was the key; despite committing a number of turnovers, Tech held the Tigers to a field goal percentage of just 23.1, allowing the Jackets to take a 20-16 lead into the half.
After the break, Tech continued to shut down Clemson’s attack, forcing turnovers and building up a lead that grew to as many as 10 points as they finished out a 49-41 win. Even though the Jackets committed 26 turnovers, they had just 11 fouls, and they notched 20 steals in forcing Clemson to commit a total of 29 turnovers and 20 fouls. Goodlett, junior forward Brigitte Ardossi, and senior guard Jacqua Williams each had at least 10 points, and Montgomery had nine to go with four steals and three blocks, both of which tied for the team lead.
After the game, the team held a ceremony for Joseph in which interim Institute President Gary Schuster presented the coach with a commemorative basketball in honor of her 100th win. A number of Joseph’s former players were on hand for Alumni Recognition Day, and she recognized them in addition to her current players and coaches.
“Georgia Tech is a great place and I just feel fortunate to work with these young women…It is a great feeling to share this with all these people, and I look forward to the next hundred,” Joseph said to the audience at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
As for the game, Joseph admitted that turnovers were a problem but applauded her team’s defensive effort. “Anytime you hold an ACC team to 41 points, you are doing a good job, so I am proud of our defense,” she said.
When the Jackets traveled to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest, Joseph elected to make a change in the starting lineup, sending sophomore Iasia Hemingway in as a third guard against Wake’s four-guard attack. Tech repeatedly pushed the ball inside against the small lineup, and with great success, as Goodlett had a stellar performance with 15 points and seven rebounds.
However, the Deacons’ fast attack forced the Jackets to commit 28 fouls over the course of the game, and that allowed Wake to score 31 points off of free throws alone. The Jackets were down 30-24 at halftime; they rebounded to take the lead with nine minutes left in the game, but a late Wake run put the game out of reach as the Deacons won 68-60. With the loss, the Jackets fell to 16-6 overall on the season, and their ACC record returned to the .500 mark at 4-4.
Ardossi ended a streak of 19 straight successful free throw attempts when she missed her second attempt after a foul late in the first half. Her streak extended all the way back to Dec. 18th, when the Jackets played Winthrop.
The Jackets return home for their next game when they take on North Carolina State on Sunday afternoon. Tech’s players will wear pink jerseys in honor of late Wolfpack coach Kay Yow, who passed away on Jan. 24th after a battle with breast cancer.