Women’s basketball faces mid-season challenge

Photo by John Nakano

The women’s basketball team lost their fourth straight game in the ACC as they fell to No. 19 Florida State in Tallahassee by a score of 75-69 on Sunday afternoon in Tully Gym.

Three Jackets scored double digits in the game, led by freshman guard Ciani Cryor’s 18. Seniors Aaliyah Whiteside and Irene Gari posted 17 and 12 points respectively in the team’s effort.

The game began with a streaky first half as the Seminoles were able to double Tech’s score at 34-17 midway through the second period. The Jackets stormed back, however, securing the next 16 points and entering the halftime locker room down by just one. Whiteside and Gari catalyzed the scoring run with some timely jumpers and free throws, followed by a pair of opportunistic steals by sophomore Imani Tilford to sustain the team’s momentum.

The Seminoles came out firing in the second half to regain a 10 point lead, but three straight field goals by the Jackets brought the margin to just four points. Florida State’s lead hovered between four and seven points for much of the third and fourth quarters, and even dipped as low as three when sophomore Antonia Peresson nailed a three pointer with just over three minutes to play in the game.

The Seminoles did not let the game get any closer than that though, as they controlled the ball off of rebounds down the stretch to seal their victory. Their ability to put a game away late displayed the savvy of a group accustomed to winning close games, a trait the Jackets are yet to master.

“I thought we came out and battled in a tough environment on the road,” said MaChelle Joseph, Tech head coach, after the game, courtesy of ramblinwreck.com. “I felt like our kids really competed and played hard.”

With the victory, the Seminoles extended their home winning streak to 27 games. The team was able to control the pace of the game for extended periods of time by outrebounding the Jackets on both sides of the floor. They led 56-31 in total rebounds, with a 31-16 advantage on the defensive side and a 25-15 lead offensively.

Florida State also  had a large contribution from their bench players, who outscored their counterparts on the Jackets 37-13. In fact, the Seminoles led every scoring statistical category except for points off of turnovers, as they dominated Tech in the paint, on second chances, and on the fast break, minimizing the Jackets’ margin of error.

While the Jackets can afford to lose these battles against lesser opponents, top-tier teams such as Florida State challenge the team to play a nearly perfect game. In this case, the team was not up to the challenge.

While Seminoles head coach Sue Semrau surely understood that her team was a significant favor in the game, particularly because of their formidable streak at home, she entered the game with respect for the success Georgia Tech has enjoyed when playing its brand of basketball. After the game, she shared her thoughts on her team’s victory, courtesy of seminoles.com.

“I was so proud of our defensive efforts and our rebounding,” Semrau said. “Georgia Tech is physical, they’re tough, and we knew it would be tough. We knew we needed to come out and have a stronger mentality than they did, and that is something we are growing in. I’m really proud of these guys.”

After the loss, the Jackets are still winless in conference play at 0-4 and have the fourth worst overall record (out of 15 teams) in the ACC. The team had the opportunity to turn their fortunes around against North Carolina on Thursday night in a home game that tipped off after press time.

Tech will be back in action this Sunday at 2 p.m. as they host the Virginia Cavaliers, whose No. 4 ranked men’s team was upset by the Jackets at the McCamish Pavilion a week ago. The women’s ability to conjure similar results will not depend on the venue, however, but rather on their ability to play fundamentally sound basketball in a consistent manner. Should they succeed in doing so, the second half of the season could very will be an about-face of the first.

Signs of revival are clear; the team has challenged higher ranked opponents such as the Seminoles, and its experience in the ACC has provided it experience with some of the foremost women’s basketball programs in the country.

There exists a gap between acknowledging an issue and successfully addressing it, however, and it is one that Coach Joseph and the Jackets players will attempt to bridge in the coming weeks and months. If Tech continues to squander opportunities and allow opposing teams to dictate
the style of play, the season may end tepidly.

Should it force opponents to battle it physically and wear them down over the course of games, there may well be light on the horizon for a team on the precipice. Success is within their reach, but not for long. The window of opportunity will not remain open for long if the team continues to drop games it has the chance to win, but with the personnel and coaching available, there is reason for basketball fans to hope for a change in the story.