West Virginia fell to Georgia Tech 73-56 in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday evening. The Mountaineers' drought of reaching the Sweet Sixteen is extended to 29 years following this year's 2nd round exit.
Georgia Tech was very careless with the basketball as they turned it over eight times in the first quarter, which allowed West Virginia to jump out to a 15-6 lead. In the last two minutes, the Yellow Jackets were able to piece together a 9-2 run to cut the lead to just two. Lotta-Maj Lahtinen missed two shots inside on the last possession, the 2nd miss was rebounded by Lorela Cubaj who flipped it over her head to bank in two points before the sound of the horn.
The tempo picked up for both teams, which would seem to play into the hands of West Virginia,. However, the Yellow Jackets outscored the Mountaineers 21-15 in the 2nd frame thanks to their hustle to loose balls and domination on the glass. Georgia Tech held a 21-9 rebounding advantage with seven of those being on the offensive end of the floor.
Lahtinen was dialed in early as she led all scorers in the first half with 17 points, including going 3/4 from three-point range. The Mountaineers, on the other hand, had to rely on KK Deans and Esmery Martinez for baskets as leading scorer Kysre Gondrezick was held in check with just three points in the half on 1/6 shooting.
Jasmine Carson, who transferred to WVU from Georgia Tech immediately provided a spark off the bench hitting a three in transition to trim the Yellow Jacket lead to two. Lahtinen hit a mid-range jumper to get two of those points back to carry a 36-32 lead into the locker room.
Georgia Tech picked up right where they left off in the first half in the opening minutes of the third quarter by going on a 9-1 run and stretching their lead out to 45-33. The Mountaineers only got up two shots in the first six minutes thanks to the Yellow Jackets' defense harassing WVU's guards which forced four turnovers.
West Virginia's defense fell asleep on several occasions which led to easy looks in and around the paint. Georgia Tech took advantage of their high percentage shots and just couldn't miss. On the defensive end, where the Yellow Jackets have a ton of success, tightened things up and took the Mountaineers completely out of their rhythm. Gondrezick lacked the level of confidence that she typically exudes after struggling to find the bottom of the net. The Mountaineers desperately needed Gondrezick to be selfish with the ball but she never hoisted up a single shot attempt in the 2nd half.
The Yellow Jackets maintained a 15-20 point cushion throughout much of the 4th quarter and never allowed West Virginia to climb back into the game. West Virginia's season comes to an end with a final record of 22-7.