Surging Georgia Tech upsets No. 15 N.C. State

Credit: Danny Karnik

Credit: Danny Karnik

After starting ACC play with seven consecutive losses, Georgia Tech has dramatically reversed course. The Yellow Jackets earned their biggest win of the season Thursday night, defeating No. 15 N.C. State 68-62 at McCamish Pavilion.

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The Jackets have won three of their past four games after their forgettable start to ACC play.

“I think it’s just a matter of the team never losing faith in where we were headed,” coach Nell Fortner said. “Right now, we build confidence. Again, it’s not like we’ve won every game, but I feel like in the last five games or so we’ve gotten better. Eventually, it starts paying dividends and (Thursday) it did.”

Freshman guard Tonie Morgan led the Jackets with her third double-double in the past four games with 17 points (matching her career high) in only 10 field-goal attempts and 10 assists. Until Morgan racked up 13 points with 12 assists in the Jackets’ win over Clemson Jan. 26, no Tech player had achieved a points/assists double-double since 2015. Morgan now has managed the feat in back-to-back games. Over the past five games, Morgan is averaging 14.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 53.3% from the field.

Fortner said that Morgan’s confidence gradually has increased and that she has become more sure of herself with the ball in her hands.

“With the ball in her hand, we can do a lot of different things because she’s such a competent scorer, downhill driver,” Fortner said. “(Thursday), she did some good things. And then you look at 10 assists – 10 assists – and she’s our leading scorer. That’s big-time. That’s not small potatoes. That’s big potatoes.”

Midway through the fourth quarter, the Jackets took control of a back-and-forth game in which the lead changed hands 11 times. With a little more than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the score tied at 53-53, forward Kayla Blackshear fought for an offensive rebound and scored on a put-back with an and-one free throw. The Jackets held the lead for the remainder of the game, holding the Wolfpack scoreless from the 2:41 mark until an inconsequential basket with eight seconds left.

On account of winning the turnover and offensive-rebounding categories, the Jackets were able to take 65 shots (making 26) compared with the Wolfpack’s 56 (with 24 field goals). Blackshear contributed six rebounds (two offensive) and center Nerea Hermosa added seven (two offensive) and a season-high 14 points off the bench.

“I thought Nerea Hermosa was who we know Nerea Hermosa can be,” Fortner said. “That’s great having that kind of player coming off the bench.”

The Wolfpack had beaten the Jackets in the past four meetings as well as 10 of the previous 11. On Sunday, Tech will be at Miami, trying to even a score with the Hurricanes after a 69-60 loss at McCamish on Jan. 12.

“I’m so proud of our team,” Fortner said. “They have never lost their spirit, their belief, their fight to continue improving in practice.”

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