Outdueling Central Florida in the fourth quarter, the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team claimed its second-round WNIT matchup 63-51 at McCamish Pavilion Sunday evening. The Yellow Jackets gave up a six-point lead in the third quarter and trailed by two with 4:38 to play before rallying.
“We had to fight, we had to make plays,” coach MaChelle Joseph said. “We were in serious foul trouble with Elo (Edeferioka) fouling out an Zaire (O’Neal) having four fouls, but I thought we showed a lot of fight and grit and toughness at the end of the game.”
Five things to know about the game:
Leading the way
Guard Francesca Pan led with 21 points on 7-for-16 shooting, including 4-for-10 from 3-point range. The ACC freshman of the year added seven rebounds.
“We had some key people step up and make plays and get defensive rebounds, but I thought Francesca Pan really just kind of toughed it out and got some really tough defensive rebounds and made some tough shots,” Joseph said.
Two big shots
Guard Antonia Peresson made difference-making 3-pointers in the final minutes. Tech led 50-49 and had gained possession of the ball after a missed UCF shot when Knights coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson was hit with a technical foul. Peresson missed both foul shots, but then knocked down an open 3-pointer on a feed from O’Neal for a 53-49 lead at the 2:15 mark. After two UCF free throws cut the lead back to two, Peresson hit another 3-pointer on the next possession, this time on a pass from Kaylan Pugh, to push the lead to five with 1:30 to play.
“I felt like after she missed those two free throws, she was going to knock down a shot because I knew that she was disappointed that she missed those free throws,” Joseph said. “But those 3’s were huge. That’s what you expect from an upperclassman that’s got 90-plus games under their belt.”
Tech improved to 19-14 and has won five of its past seven. Joseph described the season as a journey that included wins over Georgia, Dayton and Missouri at the start (the latter two of which made the NCAA Tournament) but then derailed with a 92-52 loss at home to Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Jackets have dealt with a series of injuries and have struggled with closing out games. They were 2-5 in ACC games decided by five points or fewer and were 0-3 in overtime games.
“It was like we were constantly changing and evolving, and I think we’re really starting to find ourselves, understand our roles,” Joseph said.
The Jackets were 16-for-29 from the line, 55.2 percent. They have made 62.3 percent from the line this season, last in the ACC. Joseph said she told the team prior to the WNIT that it lost nine games by 33 points, results that could have been flipped with better performance from the line.
“We should be sitting here 26-5,” she said, repeating her message to the team. “You’re a 26-5 team if you make free throws, so we should win this thing.”
Tech will play Middle Tennessee State Thursday at McCamish at 7 p.m. in a round of 16 game. The sites for the games are chosen in a practical manner. Teams can bid on whether or not if they want to host the next round’s game. If both teams do, “whoever has the highest attendance gets to host,” Joseph said. She said she was shocked that Tech was made the home team.
Last year, MTSU ranked 17th nationally in average attendance at 5,046 per game. Tech averaged 1,040.The winner will play the Tulane-Alabama winner for the right to play in the semifinals.
“We need all the support we can get,” Joseph said.