W-Basketball downed in ACC tourney

Tech’s women’s basketball team fell just shy of reaching the ACC Tournament finals for what would have been the second time ever. The Jackets, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, battled back from a 16-point deficit to defeat fifth seed Wake Forest 52-45 on Friday, March 5, but they could not pull the upset over Duke and fell to the No. 1 seed Blue Devils 64-50 on March 6 in Greensboro, N.C.

The Jackets last reached the conference tourney finals in 1992, when as the No. 7 seed they upset Clemson and Maryland before losing by one point against top-seeded Virginia. That was also the only year that Tech was able to secure two wins in the ACC Tournament; Tech had reached the semifinal round twice since then—in 2000 and 2003—and lost to Duke both times.

This year, a first-round bye meant that Tech needed only one win to reach the semifinals. After Wake took down No. 12 seed Miami in the first round, the Jackets had their matchup set and took on the Demon Deacons on Friday.

The contest was characterized by strong defensive play and poor shooting from both teams early on. Tech and Wake combined to shoot just 24 percent (12-for-50) from the field in the first half. and over the first 11:59 of the game Tech did not hit a shot from the field, going 0-for-10 on field goal tries in that span while committing six turnovers.

After junior guard Alex Montgomery hit a jumper to give Tech its first basket of the day, the Jackets went cold again. They picked up a handful of points on free throws, but in total, over the first 18:35 the Jackets shot 1-for-17 from the field with 10 turnovers.

A key factor in that was the absence of senior forward Brigitte Ardossi, who was forced to sit for most of the half after committing two fouls in the first 90 seconds of the game.

“We couldn’t buy a basket in the first half. It seemed like when Brigitte got out we lost our offensive flow…When she was out of the game we were kind of disjointed,” said Head Coach MaChelle Joseph, courtesy of ramblinwreck.com.

With Wake ahead 25-11 with 1:30 to go, Tech began to claw back into the game. Ardossi scored on a layup on the post and sophomore point guard Metra Walthour added a pair of free throws, and after forcing a Wake turnover, Ardossi hit a jumper that cut Wake’s lead to 25-17 heading into halftime.

Defense was key late in the half for Tech. The Jackets did not allow Wake to score in the final 4:30, and the Deacons had no rebounds on either end in the last three minutes.

“We built this program on defensive rebounding. [Our defense] is what kept us in the game,” Joseph said.

In the second half, the Jackets collectively began to find their stroke. Wake scored the first four points, but Tech rallied with a 13-4 run—which included six points from Ardossi—to close within three.

Ardossi was forced to leave the game with 10:08 left with a bloody nose. She tried to draw a charge against Wake guard Brooke Thomas, but instead Ardossi took an elbow to the face. The senior sat for three-plus minutes but returned as soon as she was able.

“It hurt, but it wasn’t going to keep me out of the game. I knew I had to come back in strong,” Ardossi said.

With Wake ahead 40-34 at that point, Tech did not falter, but rather held Wake scoreless until Ardossi returned with 6:37 left. Just under two minutes later, a pair of Montgomery free throws capped a 7-1 Tech run that tied the game at 41 with 4:49 left.

The next few minutes were largely defensive, but a short Ardossi jumper with 1:05 to go gave Tech its first lead, 45-43. With Wake scrambling to tie the game, the Jackets forced two turnovers in the final minute and hit five free throws—part of a solid 14-for-17 performance from the line in the second half—and eventually secured a 52-45 victory.

“The fact we were able to step up at the end and make plays, it’s a tribute to these players and their resiliency,” Joseph said.

Tech’s success would end there, though, as on Friday the Jackets were unable to secure their first win over Duke since 1993. Tech played well, staying within four throughout the first half, but the Blue Devils pulled away in the final 20 minutes for a 67-55 victory.

Tech remained close deep into the second half, trailing just 51-48 with eight minutes left in the game, but at that point Duke began a 12-2 run to pull away.

The loss overshadowed a stellar performance by Montgomery. The junior shot 7-for-13 from the field and recorded game-highs of 19 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore center Sasha Goodlett had 13 points, and Ardossi posted eight rebounds as Tech won the rebounding battle 38-28.

Duke’s top scorer was junior guard Karima Christmas, who had 15 points and hit 10 of 13 free throw attempts.