MaChelle Joseph faces alma mater Purdue in ACC/Big Ten Challenge


Twenty-five years after she graduated from Purdue following one of the greatest athletic careers in school history, Purdue continues to tug at Georgia Tech basketball coach MaChelle Joseph’s heart.

She thinks of games won and relationships forged. She thinks of Mackey Arena, where she shot baskets by herself late at night, perfecting form that enabled her to become the Big Ten’s all-time leading scorer when her career ended in 1992. She shot by the light of the floor-level scoreboards, she said.

“I was best friends with the janitor,” Joseph said. “His name was John. He’d let me in every night and closed it down behind me.”

For the third time in her career at Tech, Joseph will face her alma mater, Thursday at 7 p.m. in an ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchup at McCamish Pavilion. The first was in her first NCAA Tournament as Tech coach, a second-round matchup in 2007. In 2012, Tech played Purdue at Mackey in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. She called it an emotional moment, as it was the first time she had returned to the beloved arena since leaving Purdue as an assistant coach in 1996. Both were losses. She said this time the weight of playing Purdue feels different.

“The thing that I’m focused on right now is my team and trying to get them in a position to be successful and get better every game,” she said.

Tech is 6-1, its only loss to No. 9 Baylor in a Thanksgiving tournament in the Bahamas. The Yellow Jackets, who reached the WNIT finals a year ago, are trying to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.

The 80-57 loss to Baylor was sobering but instructive, Joseph said. The level of execution and physical toughness has risen since the team’s return from the Bahamas, she said.

“It was a great experience for us,” she said. “We’re not going to face anybody – maybe one or two teams in the ACC – that are that big. So it’s one of those things where I think we definitely got better from it.”

Purdue will be another test of Tech’s fitness – the Boilermakers have made the NCAA Tournament six of the past seven years. Their roster includes three players from the metro Atlanta area – guards Miracle Gray (Stephenson High), Andreona Keys (Roswell High) and Dominique Oden (Marist School). Gray’s sister Nadine Morgan is an assistant coach on the Purdue staff. Tech has lost four of its past five ACC-Big Ten Challenge games.

After seven games, Joseph likes what she has seen from her team, which has a 10-deep rotation, is strong in the frontcourt and plays with typical effort. The Jackets lead the ACC in turnover margin (plus 10.2) and in steals (13.2 per game). Tech has scoring balance, with seven players averaging between 12.1 to 6.3 points per game. Guard Francesca Pan, last year’s ACC freshman of the year, is Tech’s leading scorer and has made 35.3 percent of her 3-pointers.

“We’ve got to do a better job of getting her open and getting her in position to score because she’s no longer an unknown,” Joseph said.

The next opportunity to work on that and other flaws comes Thursday, against a school Joseph could scarcely know better.

“It’s always going to mean something to me,” she said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Pastner thinks maybe too many minutes for Lammers, Okogie
Pastner thinks maybe too many minutes for Lammers, Okogie

Georgia Tech center Ben Lammers’ 40-minute games may be a thing of the past. Guard Josh Okogie’s toil on behalf of the Yellow Jackets may be abbreviated also. Coach Josh Pastner said that he has been playing both players too much, which has limited their productivity. “We need them to be better, but maybe I’m playing them too...
Justin Moore to suit up for remainder of season
Justin Moore to suit up for remainder of season

Georgia Tech guard Justin Moore will travel with the team and dress for the remainder of the season, coach Josh Pastner said Monday. Moore’s first game back in uniform will be Wednesday against Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla. Pastner said that, barring academic matters, “he’ll be with us the rest of the way through.&rdquo...
Georgia Tech staff complete with hire of Jerome Riase
Georgia Tech staff complete with hire of Jerome Riase

Georgia Tech has completed its coaching staff with the hire of Wofford defensive line coach Jerome Riase. The hire was confirmed by a person familiar with the situation. Riase will have to go through a standard background check for the hire to be made official. Riase had coached at Wofford for the past four seasons. He did not overlap with new Tech...
A second look at Georgia Tech-North Carolina
A second look at Georgia Tech-North Carolina

Another look at Georgia Tech’s 80-66 loss to No. 15 North Carolina Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C. Three observations and thoughts about a defeat that dropped the Yellow Jackets to 10-9 overall and 3-3 in the ACC. The “5 observations story” can be found here. 1. Ted Valentine can be something of a lightning rod, given what...
Georgia Tech selects its new gold, will reveal in spring
Georgia Tech selects its new gold, will reveal in spring

Georgia Tech has selected its shade of gold. However, it won’t be revealed for several months. After several weeks of working with new apparel partner Adidas, the athletic department has landed on the shade of gold that it will use for apparel and uniforms. “I think it’s been chosen,” athletic director Todd Stansbury said in...
More Stories