ATHENS — Five things we learned as Georgia beat Georgia Tech 78-66 Sunday in Stegeman Coliseum:
1. Marjorie Butler’s senior showcase
After not registering a single point in the first two games of the season, Butler put up 18 points against rival Georgia Tech. Twelve of which came before halftime.
“For her to come out and contribute the way she did, not only were they open looks, they were shots we needed,” coach Joni Taylor said. “They were really, really big shots. I couldn’t be more happy for her.”
Butler’s first-half highlight was a buzzer-beater three to end the half.
“Woo! That felt so good,” Butler said. “We went on a great run in the second half so that gave us momentum going into the second half so it sort of just put it in their face as we went into halftime.”
The 18-point offensive stand marked a career high for Butler, whereas her previous best was 13 points against Kentucky in the 2014-2015 season. The senior only averaged 4.6 points per game last season.
Butler, who led the team in assists last season, tied senior Tiaria Griffin for the team high on Sunday in that category with five.
2. Double-digit offense
Georgia had three players reach double-digit scoring, two of which topped 20 points in the game.
Senior Merritt Hempe led the team with a double-double consisting of 21 points and 10 rebounds.
“My team broke the press beautifully and I was just there to pick up easy layups,” Hempe said. “I’m in the back of the press break and they did an awesome job of getting the ball down the court and there I am to get the credit for their hard work. So, it’s all them.”
The team-leading scorer being a slightly skewed statistic as Griffin led the team in scoring for a majority of the game. Hempe surpassed her by one point in the final minutes. Butler’s 18 was good enough for third.
Hempe was a perfect 4-4 from the free-throw line, a statistic highly sought after by the Lady Bulldogs.
3. Beyond the starting five
Both teams had minimal production from their bench. But for different reasons.
Georgia only deployed two bench players throughout the game. Sophomore Haley Clark and freshman Amber Skidgel came off the bench for minor minutes.
Clark contributed two points in her nine minutes.
Halle Washington, who had a 13-point performance against Michigan State, was injured for Sunday’s game.
Across the court, the Yellow Jackets used five players from their bench, which has contributed significant minutes in their first two games, but came up short on points, only tallying five.
“We have to get more production off of our bench,” Georgia Tech head coach MaChelle Joseph said. “We’ve been relying on our bench players our first three games an tonight we only got five points off of our bench. That’s just not enough for us to win a game on the road in the SEC.”
Georgia Tech was largely reliant starters Aaliyah Whiteside’s 21-point game and a 20-point attack from Katarina Vuckovic.
3. Undefeated seniors
With Sunday’s win, the senior class will graduate having never lost to Georgia Tech.
“I’ve got bragging rights for the rest of my life so that’s something I’m definitely really proud of and all the credit goes to the team,” Butler said. We went out there and fought today. We deserved that win.”
The 2015-2016 class includes Butler, Griffin, Hempe, Shacobia Barbee and Terryuana Godwin, who transferred before the 2014-2015 season.
More than just the current five-game streak against the Yellow Jackets, the win preserved the Lady Bulldogs’ perfect 15-0 home record against Georgia Tech.
Lady Hardmon Grooms, who played for the Bulldogs from 1988-1992, spoke to the team before the game to provide some insight to the rivalry, according to Hempe.
“We don’t want to lose because we don’t want to lose for anybody else,” Hempe said. “We’re not the only people playing Georgia Tech. It’s all the former players. We’re playing for everybody.”
5. QUOTES FROM THE COACH
“I was pleased with the first and second quarter but the third and fourth quarter defensively, no. We gave them eight or nine offensive rebounds in one quarter alone after holding them to four the entire first half. For us, it’s just having the maturiuty and fight and the will to put our foot on our opponent when they’re down and take them out of the game and we tend to become too casual. That’s something we’ve got to continue to get better at, so I wasn’t pleased at all with the third and fourth quarters, especially defensively.”
-Taylor on the putting together a full game
“I’m still a little upset about that game. I was so disappointed in our effort and our message was, ‘Everybody has that tape. Is this going to define who you are?’ I was happy to see them bounce back and play well and to make shots and make free throws and do things that we hadn’t done so well. We’ve got to go on the road in a tough environment and beat good teams if we want to say we’re a good team.”
-Taylor on the team’s recent loss to Michigan State