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The game between Georgia Tech and UNC in the ACC tourney reminded me a bit of their regular-season match-up in that it was brutally physical, low-scoring, and featured a lot of turnovers. Once again, the Jackets prevailed in a tense game that went down to the final shot. UNC took an early 10-2 lead in part because of the momentum they carried from the previous day's game. They looked loose and aggressive and Georgia Tech looked a step slow. The Jackets countered with a 10--2 run of their own to create a game that was close most of the way. Three pointers by GT's Metra Walthour and Mo Bennett pushed the Jackets to a six point halftime lead that was all the more impressive considering that center Sasha Goodlett scored just 2 points and committed 3 fouls. The Jackets forced 16 UNC turnovers but were outrebounded by 4. For the Heels, star frosh Brittany Rountree sat for most of the half with 3 fouls of her own. Tierra Ruffin Pratt and She'la White picked up some of that scoring slack, but neither team was putting up many points.
The two squads went back and forth during the first ten minutes of the second half, with GT up by 7 when Dawnn Maye took advantage of UNC's inability to stop players going left to make a layup. White drained a three to trigger a 9-0 run. Maye tied it up again with another key layup, but back-to-back drives by White and Ruffin-Pratt gave UNC a 51-47 lead with about four minutes left. Marshall took over down the stretch, driving in for a three point play, grabbing a rebound, and then driving again to give the Jackets a 52-51 lead. Chay Shegog scored on a short jumper to restore the lead, but Marshall broke down the defense once again for a score. White missed a layup with 1:11 left and Tech missed a three with 39 seconds left and a layup with 11 seconds left. Marshall came up with a steal but stepped into the backcourt without thinking, giving UNC the ball back with 2 seconds left. Finally, the Heels set up a play for Rountree, who shot with a hand in her face and missed, preserving the win. Neither team played all that well, but Marshall took over the game here like she did in Chapel Hill to propel her team to the win.
What's Next For UNC: The Heels head home and have to sweat out the NCAA committee's decision regarding at-large bids for the tournament. While both UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell and GT coach MaChelle Joseph felt that UNC was definitely in, I'd say that they're still squarely on the bubble. There are a number of conferences whose best team could make the tournament as an at-large candidate, and if they lose in their tournaments then that could potentially squeeze the Heels out of a bid. This will be something to closely monitor.
What's Next For Georgia Tech: The Jackets move on to the semifinals and their senior class set a program record for most wins. The best year in Georgia Tech history continues with a chance to make further history and continue to make a case as a definite 4 seed and possibly greater.
- Ty Marshall, GT: 21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals.
- Mo Bennett, GT: 11 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals.
- Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, NC: 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
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