Georgia--Georgia Tech: A Maturing Rivalry?
Tech's Jacqua Williams--No. 4 nationally in steals
Tech's Jacqua Williams--No. 4 nationally in steals
Posted Dec 9, 2008

Georgia Tech's Yellow Jackets are the traditional under-Dawgs in this in-state rivalry. But this year, Tech got the upper hand over the perennial favorites, and with an upset victory over No. 24 ranked Michigan State, may be earning their way to a spot in the national rankings.

A sign near the entrance to Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum reads simply, “Be bold, wear gold.” Maybe after the recent match-up in women’s basketball between the traditional in-state rivals a few more people in the Peach State will be searching their closets for gold accoutrements and, hey, they’re seasonal anyway!

I live in Thomasville, a town in South Georgia, so close to Tallahassee that when the wind is blowing from the south on a football Saturday, you may faintly hear the crowd noise at Florida State University. Yet, Thomasville, Georgia (best known athletically as the hometown of Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward, who played football at FSU and then pro basketball mostly with the Knicks) is in truth mostly a farm town of staunch Georgia Bulldog supporters. This is in spite of being over four hours from that campus with rival powers Auburn (3 hours), Florida (2-½ hours) and Florida State (1 hour) all much closer in driving distance.

The concept of state pride runs deep in much of the Old South and Georgia is no exception. To a sports fan from Georgia, the Gators and their out-of-state ilk are roundly hated. But unlike the Sunshine State, where the aforementioned Seminoles and Gators (from more central Gainesville) must share the spotlight for the allegiance of Florida college sports fans, in Georgia there are the Bulldogs and … well, everybody else, if you could dream of a reason for rooting for them. Ride through the countryside and you will see the roadsides sprinkled with red/black maiboxes with a big G (shaped like a football) on them. Almost never any sign of Tech support! To most Georgia fans, Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jackets are simply dismissed as an inferior athletic rival, expected to lose to teams wearing Georgia’ red white and black.

This attitude most likely stems from the fact that Georgia is largely an agricultural state with only one true major metropolitan area and the University of Georgia is the State’s Ag School. Also, given Atlanta’s gradual expansion into surrounding counties, if you drive east from downtown Atlanta, there is little break between its eastern suburbs and Athens, home of the Bulldog Nation. Thus, they tap into the big city as well. As has been said, Tech has Atlanta between North and 10th, UGA the rest of the state, except for pockets of Auburn fans toward Columbus, not far from the Auburn campus which is on the east side of Alabama.

So where does Georgia Tech fit into the equation? Sadly, it barely does in the minds of most fans in the state. Speak to Tech alums and they will quickly tell you they are vastly outnumbered and often get less ink in the Atlanta newspaper than their University of Georgia rivals. Given their history of shortcomings in so many athletic endeavors against their Number One in-state rival (particularly in football), Jacket boosters are far more fixated on any match-up with UGA than are their Bulldog counterparts, who usually count Tech games (particularly in football—though, yes, Tech broke a seven-year losing streak this fall) as in the bag and are searching for bigger game, such as the Gators and other SEC foes. The Tech grads point to the fact that their university is smaller in size (be it also state-run) with less variety in majors, directed traditionally toward engineering and business management, although those things have a way of broadening out in this era of megabuck sports. One Tech alum told me that he “lost” his son to the University of Georgia. In choosing to break with family tradition (five Tech grads in prior generations) and head to Athens, the young man told his father, “I want to go to a school with a winning tradition and where the girls are pretty.”

Without commenting on the second portion of the above declaration, women’s basketball has supported the same concept of athletic excellence through which the perennially ranked Lady ‘Dawgs have traditionally dominated the match-ups between the two revivals. The ‘Dawgs staked their claim early and ofen, winning their first 24 match-ups against Tech, only twice by less than double digits. UGA’s record against Tech now stands at 28-3. Prior to this year, the Yellow Jackets wins in 2002 and 2004 were at home and by single digits margins.

What made this year’s match-up so unusual was that it was the first time in many years (might I guess ever?) that the Yellow Jackets were favored coming into the game. Conversely, this season marked the first year that Georgia was unranked in the AP pre-season poll since the 1980-81 season. From what was on display in this year’s ‘Dawgs-Jackets tilt, the pollsters had it right: Georgia should not have been ranked. (Georgia went on to prove just how unworthy they were of national ranking last night as they gave up yet another game, 34-45, to No. 12 Rutgers. The Lady Dawgs were picked fourth in the SEC pre-season poll. For the sake of the SEC, that prediction better turn out to be high or the conference is faring fare worse than many people think.

Coach Andy Landers may have summarized the status of his club in the post-game press conference when he said, “We are not deep.”

On the other side of the ledger, coming into the season unranked nationally and ranked sixth pre-season in the difficult ACC, Tech should be moving up the polls shortly.

The Yellow Jackets can now point to a second win in a row over a BCS school. Immediately prior to the Georgia/Georgia Tech game, Tech upset No.24 ranked Michigan State, The game took place as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge contest, won again this year by the ACC, 7-4. For this series, the Atlanta-based squad can point to having won three-out-of-the-last-seven.

What’s right and wrong with the Lady Bulldogs?


  1. They have a quality point guard in 5-6 junior Ashley Houts. Her handles are more than adequate. She has good vision, above average basketball IQ, defends adequately, can attack the basket or spot up outside (her three-ball shooting averages 34.4% for her first two years). Again for her first two college seasons, her assist-to-turnover ratio was 287:213, which is decent but not great. On this night against Tech, she turned it over 8 times to 5 assists and got her shot blocked on attacking taller Tech defenders. Her biggest problem this year may be that she will be asked to do too much (as in play the whole game as her time was listed at just under 40 minutes).

  2. Porsha Phillips, from nearby Stone Mountain, left LSU to return home. The SEC, unlike several other major conferences, allows in-conference transfers with just one year of sitting. The red-shirt sophomore should have a fine career in Athens. At 6-2, this power forward has good mobility and can attack the basket from the high post.

  3. Jaleesa Rhoden, a 5-8 Canadian lefty, still needs to work on going right, but she appears to be making progress in playing the wing-to-baseline area off the bench.

Mixed Bag:

1. Angel Robinson. Andy Landers has been known to put players into the proverbial doghouse and the 6-5 junior center seems to be the current occupant. Robinson does not start and has been averaging only 22.3 minutes per game (24 vs. Tech) through their first eight contests. On this night, she missed a few “ducks” and only took six shots, finishing with five points, well below her 12.4 ppg potential on the basis of 60.0% (!) shooting. Given what else Coach Landers put on the court, Robinson needs to get more time!

2. Danielle Taylor. At 6-1, the senior reserve forward attacked the basket, earning 29 minutes by scoring 12 points. Post-game, coach Landers cited need for defensive improvement on her part.


  1. Angela Puleo. While it is usually not fair to single out one player, the Tennessee native did get all forty minutes at the shooting guard position. In that time, she shot 1/5 for three points with one assist, one steal, two defensive boards and four turnovers. Against the Tech press, this spot-up shooter was simply too passive and hurt the Georgia cause by a lack of aggressive play.

  2. Christy Marshall. Listed at 6-1, the junior from Savannah needs to be more aggressive with the ball. On this night she finished with two points on 1/6, settling too much for jumpers.

  3. Jasmine Lee. At 6-3, she looks and is built like Tasha Humphrey but performs well short of that level of game. The physical tools appear to be there but only one shot and two rebounds in 15 minutes simply won’t cut it!

  4. The general failure of the Lady Dawgs to punish the Yellow Jacket passive press and turning the ball over too often at 23 times, many unforced.

How about the Yellow Jackets?


  1. They play hard on defense with good half and full-court on-the-ball pressure.

  2. Individually, Jacqua Williams is one of the better ball thieves in the women’s game, ranked fourth in the nation in steals.

  3. At 6-1, Alex Montgomery is a versatile wing player, able to attack the basket or shoot over the opponent. For short periods of time, she can back up the point.

  4. Iasia Hemmingway is a match-up nightmare. At 5-11, she is an undersized power forward able to function well due to strong build. Her favorite move appears to be an up-fake, spin dribble and then finish with either hand at the rim. She can step out and shoot over the defense, making it that much more difficult to guard her.

  5. Australian forward Brigitte Ardossi appears to have gotten into better shape and is moving a bit quicker around the key than last year. On this night, she netted a double-double against the more athletic Georgia posts.

  6. There is no shortage of penetrators on this squad: Williams, Montgomery, Deja Foster (6-0 freshman G/F.


  1. This squad will have difficulty winning a firefight as overall offensive punch is limited in match-ups with quality opponents.

  2. Size in the middle is an issue. Freshman Sasha Goodlett is strong and thickly built but appeared foul-prone and has trouble gathering the ball to score down low. After her, the line-up gets smaller and takes up less space.

  3. Passing in this viewing appeared sloppy with many turnovers unforced.

  4. Long-range shooting appears not to be this club’s forte in spite of what the stats to date may show. Georgia really concentrated on hedging to take away penetration.

  5. Freshman Mo Bennett scored 19 against Connecticut but has since cooled off (two in this contest). Her handles appear to need work, even for the off guard.

  6. Winners tend to bring in more fans but Tech’s win ugly-style may make that less likely.

Briefly on to the game…

This was not an ESPN instant classic. The pace was slow as the Lady Dawgs carefully worked to break Yellow Jacket pressure. While relatively few turnovers were forced by the press, Georgia rarely started their offense with 20 seconds left on the possession. At the other end, the visitors forced Tech to be very patient due to posts hedging out to prevent drivers from turning the corner into the lane. For the first half, the score was tied six times with six lead changes. With 4:55 left in the half, the score was only 16-15 favoring the Georgia. The pace picked up in the closing minutes with an Alex Montgomery trey sending the home team to the locker room up 28-25.

The second half opened with a Tech 10-4 run, putting the score at 38-29 with 15:35 left in the contest. Tech was able to score in the paint and get to the foul line as four different players tallied points. At the other end, Georgia was missing jumpers and when an easy, close-in opportunity came, missed that too. The lead reached as high as 16 with 10:58 left and never went below nine in the final 10 minutes, ending quietly 57-42.

The Lady Dawgs continued to struggle in the second half getting into their offense with more than 18 seconds left on possessions. In the post-game press conference, Coach MaChelle Joseph pointed to the need to prevent the Lady Dawgs from setting up their high-low offense and used the passive pressure tactic to take time off the clock. Why Georgia did not push the tempo more when on numerous occasions they had gotten past the first wave of defenders and had numbers, was a bit of a mystery to me. Most likely, Coach Landers only felt comfortable with the ball in the hands of point guard Ashley Houts for long stretches of dribbling and she was usually the one sending the ball forward against the pressure.

On this night, Tech hardly burned the nets, shooting just 17/45 for 37.8% to Georgia’s 35.3%. Jacket aggression paid off with 27 trips to the foul line making 19, compared to Georgia’s 4 making 2! Dawg starters accounted for just 12 points on the evening; they were led in scoring by reserve Jeleesa Rhoden with 13. Tech was led by Iasia Hemmingway with 18, several on complicated up-fake and spin moves to the cup. Brigitte Ardossi finished her double-double with 15 points and 10 boards. The announced crowd of 6212 (were 2000 really there?) was about 60-40 in favor of the home team.

Buy or sell?

If you own Georgia stock, I would sell. I don’t feel good about this year’s edition of UGA women’s hoops. It could be Coach Lander’s worst in years, perhaps only saved from too much embarrassment by a weak SEC. Look to buy before next season due to a good recruiting class with only one reserve graduating after this season’s roster.

If you own Tech stock, hold and perhaps buy a few more shares as the club may yet finish higher than their projected 6th in the ACC but is unlikely to fall lower. From their rotation, the Jackets graduate only point guard Jacqua Williams, but given limited ball handlers that lox may be significant. Freshman 5-6 Metra Walthour is believed to be her replacement but is averaging only two ppg in eight minutes of play. She did not hit the floor in this contest. Their overall incoming class is considered to be among the top 20 but ranks below Georgia’s. Look for the Lady Bulldogs to move past the Yellow Jackets next year. Still Tech should have enough to continue to threaten the top 25 into next season, be a NCAA Tournament team and, yes, compete in Athens against UGA.

Over the next year, maybe a few more college fans by percentage in the Peach State will don gold but it is likely to be no more than that. Tradition dies hard in these parts.

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