Nov. 13, 2015
ATLANTA, Ga. - Loyola used a late fourth-quarter to charge to nearly erase a 22-point second-half deficit before ultimately falling to host Georgia Tech by a final count of 84-77 this evening inside McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta, Ga. The Yellow Jackets move to 1-0 with the win, while the Ramblers slip to 0-1 to begin the 2015-16 season.
Neither team was able to settle into a rhythm on the offensive end in the first quarter. A split from Nieka Wheeler at the free throw line put the Ramblers on the board first, 1-0, with 8:28 to play. Three straight layups from Wheeler, Sam Lambrigtsen and Taylor Johnson had Loyola up five, 7-2, with just over three minutes gone. Georgia Tech cut the lead down to one, 9-8, on a pair of Imani Tilford free throws. Taylor Manuel's first bucket of the game and two Lambrigtsen makes from the charity stripe bumped the lead back up to five, 13-8, before the Yellow Jackets closed the quarter on a 13-3 run to open up a 21-16 edge.
Following a jumper by Chelsea Guimaraes to open the second quarter, the Maroon & Gold began to battle its way back into the contest. A layup by Johnson sparked a 7-2 Loyola run that pulled the Ramblers even, 25-25, at the 6:22 mark. The deadlock was short-lived as Antonia Peresson drained a triple with 5:58 to play to put Georgia Tech back on top, 28-25. Aaliyah Whiteside connected from distance just over a minute later to push the margin to six, 33-27, before Manuel answered with a post score to make it 33-29 with 4:07 remaining. As was the case at the end of the first quarter, the hosts hit the gas pedal heading into halftime, using a 13-1 run, the last six of which came from Whiteside, to roll into the break with a 46-30 lead.
Two Katarina Vuckovic free throws with 8:09 to go in the third quarter capped off an early 6-0 spurt for the Yellow Jackets that saw their lead upped to 22 (52-30). Loyola battled its way back to within 16 (52-36) when Johnson converted on another layup with 7:10 remaining but quickly saw its deficit grow back to 20 only two minutes after. Georgia Tech's lead hovered between 16-20 points for the remainder of the third quarter as the Yellow Jackets took a 66-49 edge into the final quarter.
Loyola struggled to make a dent in the lead as time ticked away but caught fire inside the last four minutes of regulation. A Manuel free throw kicked off a final charge that saw the Ramblers run off 13 unanswered points, the last two of which came off of a steal and score from Lambrigtsen, to pull Loyola all the way back to within six, 79-73, with 1:42 to play. Whiteside would go on to split a pair of attempts from the charity stripe on Georgia Tech's next possession before Vuckovic came up with a key steal and drained a three to get the lead back into double digits, 83-73, as the Yellow Jackets held on for a win in their home opener.
Manuel paced the attack for the Ramblers with a team-best 21 points. She was joined in double figures this evening by Johnson (18), Wheeler (14) and Lambrigtsen (12). Ryaen Johnson, making only the sixth start of her career, came up with a game-high five blocks on the defensive end. Whiteside led all scorers on the night with 22 points.
Loyola wraps up a season-opening two-game road trip on Tuesday night when it takes on in-state foe Eastern Illinois. Tip-off from Lantz Arena in Charleston, Ill. is set for 6 p.m.