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
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
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
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
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
What’s right and
wrong with the Lady Bulldogs?
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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
They play hard on
defense with good half and full-court on-the-ball pressure.
Jacqua Williams is one of the better ball thieves in the women’s
game, ranked fourth in the nation in steals.
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
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.
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.
There is no
shortage of penetrators on this squad: Williams, Montgomery, Deja
Foster (6-0 freshman G/F.
This squad will
have difficulty winning a firefight as overall offensive punch is
limited in match-ups with quality opponents.
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.
Passing in this
viewing appeared sloppy with many turnovers unforced.
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.
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
Winners tend to
bring in more fans but Tech’s win ugly-style may make that
Briefly on to the
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
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
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
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.