Tech still unfazed after playing Hawkeyes in NCAA Tournament


All season long, the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team has shown it’s not afraid to step out of its comfort zone.

The Yellow Jackets traveled to Storrs, Conn., in its second game of the year to take on No. 1 Connecticut and gave the Huskies their third-closest game of the year, losing 82-71.

They also played Oregon and Texas during the season, in addition to their daunting ACC schedule, which included games at NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed Duke and against No. 1 seed Maryland and No. 3 seed North Carolina.

“One of the things we did was upgrade our [nonconference] schedule,” Georgia Tech head coach Machelle Joseph said. “We went and played UConn in front of 10,000 fans, and we’re used to playing in front of huge crowds in the ACC.”

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After playing in front of the basketball-rabid Huskie fans, along with the other treacherous home environments encountered during the year, Joseph said, playing in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes Sunday night was “like just another road game.”

Georgia Tech was able to take care of Iowa, 76-62, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday in front of a very anti-Yellow Jacket crowd of 5,615 fans.

“This is what we prepared for all season long,” Joseph said. Whenever Iowa and its crowd seemed to be inching back into the game, “we’ve played through those spurts before, so we can revert back to that, and that’s what we talked about in the time-outs. I said, ‘We’ve weathered these storms before.’ ”

The Yellow Jackets were also familiar with Carver-Hawkeye Arena — they beat the Hawkeyes, 76-57, in Carver last season as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said the confidence gained from last season definitely helped the Yellow Jackets.

“I think it helped them because they knew they were coming in here 1-0 on our home court against us,” Bluder said. “So I think, mentally, that was a good edge for them.”

Joseph agreed.

“To some degree, the fact that we’ve been here before was an advantage, because we’d heard that crowd before,” she said. “One of the things we talked about before [the] game was earning some respect for our program. We really feel like we played ourselves into a better seed than a nine seed [during the regular season].”

Joseph has made Georgia Tech become relevant in the ACC. The victory against Iowa was the second in six NCAA Tournament games all-time for the Yellow Jackets, all of which have come under Joseph.

Her record in six seasons in Atlanta sits at 106-73 and the team has matched its win total from a year ago (22), which is the highest number of victories since the program joined the ACC in 1979-80. The Yellow Jackets have won 20 games for the third-straight year after never posting back-to-back 20-win seasons before.

Georgia Tech (22-9) will face another challenge tonight, taking on No. 1 seed Oklahoma (29-4) at 8:30 p.m., meaning the Yellow Jackets will end up playing each No. 1 seed this season. In addition to Connecticut, the Yellow Jackets lost to the Blue Devils, 60-34, and to the Terrapins, 87-79.

The starting front court of Georgia Tech — forward Iasia Hemingway, forward Brigitte Ardossi, and center Sasha Goodlett — combined for 30 rebounds, matching Iowa’s team total, and the Yellow Jackets outscored the Hawkeyes in the paint, 46-12.

Georgia Tech will face a much tougher challenge down low Tuesday, taking on the Paris twins — center All-American Courtney and forward Ashley — along with forward Abi Olajuwon, who are one of the best in the nation.

“[We] just want to go out and work on our game plan [against] Oklahoma,” Hemingway said. “Attacking the rim off the dribble and keep attacking it and attacking it.”

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