2014 ACC WBB Tournament: No. 7 Georgia Tech fends off No. 10 Virginia

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Chris Baird - TSN via Baird Photography
Chris Baird – TSN via Baird Photography

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The seventh-seeded Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets held on for a 77-76 victory over the 10th-seeded Virginia Cavaliers in the two teams’ second-round game in the 2014 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Women’s Basketball Tournament played at the Greensboro Coliseum on Thursday.

The Yellow Jackets pressed the Cavaliers right from the opening tip in an attempt to wear them down early and often.

We’re a team that presses for 40 minutes,” Yellow Jackets head coach MaChelle Joseph said.

“We press you on every dead ball, every made basket. We even press on missed baskets. We’re a team that presses. But we were feeling like since Virginia played yesterday our ability to press and run in transition would help us wear them down a little bit. I thought that they showed some toughness and endurance in the second half.”

Kaela Davis and Tyaunna Marshall were the one-two punch that led the Yellow Jackets offense with 28 and 26 points scored respectively.

Sarah Imovbioh (27 points, 10 rebounds), Kelsey Wolfe (16 points, 2 assists) and Ataira Franklin (15 points, 7 rebounds) provided Virginia’s answer to countering Georgia Tech’s early offensive attack.

While the Cavaliers jumped out to an early 13-8 lead, Georgia Tech needed to find its scoring touch after shooting a grim 7 of 20 from the field to start the game.

Davis and Marshall went to work and connected on 10 of their final 19 shots to give the Yellow Jackets a 38-34 lead at halftime.

The duo continued their scoring pace and eventually helped Georgia Tech to extend its advantage to double-digits, leading 50-39 with 16:28 remaining.

However, even while falling behind by as many as 14 points, Virginia responded with a run initiated by Wolfe that swung the game’s momentum to the Cavs’ favor.

“Just a great, great tournament game for both teams,” Virginia coach Joanne Boyle said.

“Obviously it’s really painful right now. A lot of credit to Georgia Tech, but I couldn’t be more proud of my team after this game.”

As Virginia continued to chip away at the Yellow Jackets’ lead, Imovbioh energized her bench and the team’s supporters when she completed a three-point play with 5:26 left that whittled the deficit down to two points (68-66).

Following a three-point play by Aaliyah Whiteside (6 points, 6 rebounds) that gave Georgia Tech a 77-74 lead with less than 14 seconds remaining, Virginia stayed focused on tying the game.

Cavaliers guard Lexie Gerson got the open look, but Yellow Jackets forward Nariah Taylor came up with her biggest block of three she made in the game, and denied the shot attempt.

However, Taylor was so proud of the play that she didn’t realize that her exuberance would earn her a technical foul for unsportsmanlike conduct.

With 3.7 seconds left, Franklin made both free throws resulting from the technical and left the Cavaliers down by one.

It was the Yellow Jackets’ continued aggressive defensive play that staved off any further opportunity for Virginia to complete the comeback as Davis interrupted an entry pass that left Franklin scrambling for a shot that fell short as the buzzer sounded.

“No matter who we play, it’s an ACC team and every team in this league is good,” Marshall said of the win over Virginia and of what to expect against Duke, the Yellow Jackets’ next opponent.

“We’re going to approach it like a regular game. It’s win or go home. We’re not going to come in here scared or timid. We’re going to come and lay it all on the line because we’re not promised tomorrow.”

The Yellow Jackets tip off against the defending ACC Tournament champion, the second-seeded Blue Devils on Friday at 6 p.m.