Triumph at Clemson; Heartbreak in Raleigh

Sophomore guard Tonie Morgan (No. 5) looks to find the opening in the NC State defense during the game as she hopes to find a scoring opportunity in the 86-85 overtime loss. // Photo courtesy of Jaylynn Nash GTAA

On Thursday afternoon, Tech women’s basketball traveled up to Clemson, S.C. to face off against the Tigers. The Jackets won the series’ first game in a nail-biter at McCamish Pavilion, so the Tigers definitely wanted to prove
that win was a fluke. 

Tech came into this game needing the win if they were going to have any chance of an at-large bid in the National Collegiate Athletics Associations (NCAA) tournament next month.

Early on, both teams mostly traded buckets, but the Jackets then took command of the game after a 13-2 run in the second quarter. Three Jackets scored in double figures during the game, but a 12 point first half from freshman guard Rusne Augustianite gave Tech the early edge. Even though the Tigers found themselves in a nine point deficit heading into the second half, they were not  going to go away without a fight.

The Tigers lept back  in front in the third quarter, outscoring  the Jackets by 15 points due to shooting woes from the Jackets. Tech shot a mere 19% from the field in the third quarter and found themselves down six points heading into the final quarter.

Throughout the game, the Jackets got no production from sophomore guard Kara Dunn, but in the fourth quarter, she came to life . Dunn shot 4-6 from the floor and 7 for 7 from the free throw line, dropping 15 points in the final quarter to put the Jackets on top. Even a late three from Clemson star guard Ruby Whitehorn was not enough as Dunn ended the game at the free throw line and Nell Fortner’s squad declawed  the Tigers, 64-63.

Not only did Dunn drop 24 points, sophomore guard Inés Noguero finished with a double-double highlighted by 11 points and 10 rebounds. Tech’s guard play was too much for the Tigers to handle and this was the exact victory the Jackets needed heading into their game against highly ranked N.C. State. 

After defeating Clemson, the Jackets would have arguably their hardest game of the season, in Raleigh against the no. 6 ranked NC State Wolfpack. The game tipped off Sunday at noon and the Jackets immediately got off to a hot start. Tech shot 10-13 from the floor and 2-3 from behind the arc in the first quarter to secure a small two-point lead.

Heading into the second quarter, the Jackets continued their shooting prowess by nailing five three point jumpers as well as shooting 50% from the floor. Tech held  the Wolfpack to under 50% from the floor but struggled to keep them off the offensive glass. The Wolfpack grabbed eight more offensive rebounds than the Jacketsh. The third quarter continued back and forth as Dunn, Augustinaite and sophomore guard Tonie Morgan continued their strong play. Morgan finished the game with 23 points and 11 assists.

Going into the fourth quarter, Tech went  up three points and tried  their hardest to hold on. The Jackets maintained a lead throughout the quarter despite stellar offensive play from Wolfpack junior guard Aziaha James who would finish the game with 30 points. Morgan converted a  three-point play with about two minutes to go, putting the Jackets up by three points. The Wolfpack were able to tie it up and after an empty possession for the Jackets, James and the Wolfpack had a chance to win it. 

James drove to the hoop and put up a shot that rattled off the iron and  into the hands of her teammate Saniya Rivers, who finished an and-one bucket to put the Wolfpack up by three with nine seconds to go.

Everyone in the stadium thought the game was over, but Dunn still had something to say about it. Fortner took a timeout to reset and then the Jackets inbounded the ball from half court and Dunn hit a miraculous three pointer to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Overtime didn’t start how the Jackets wanted, as the Wolfpack took an early six point advantage. With time fleeting in the game, junior forward Kayla Blackshear hit a couple of free throws to shrink the Wolfpack lead. 

Following a Jackets defensive hold, Dunn made a miracle three point heave with the shot clock winding down, stretching the Jackets within one of the lead. 

Needing a stop to take the lead, the Jackets s had a chance to win the ballgame. With just a couple of seconds on the clock, Noguero passed up an open three and dished it to Morgan, who took it to the rack and threw it up for the win, but the Tech magic had run out and it missed the net. Tech fell 85-86 in overtime to number six ranked N.C. State. 

Tech will return back to McCamish Pavilion to finish their home season against top ranked Louisville on Thursday, Feb. 22  and then play Senior Night against Miami on Sunday, Feb.  25.