Georgia Tech rallies to avoid upset with 54-52 OT win

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

SAN ANTONIO — Lorela Cubaj took a scary fall and her Georgia Tech team almost did too but both recovered to play another day in the women’s NCAA Tournament.

Cubaj scored 14 points, including the go-ahead free throws in overtime, and the fifth-seeded Yellow Jackets came back from a 17-point halftime deficit to turn back 12-seed Stephen F. Austin 54-52 on Sunday.

The Yellow Jackets’ first opening-round victory since 2012 – and the fourth-largest comeback in tournament history – sends them to a Tuesday matchup against fourth-seeded West Virginia, a 77-53 winner over No. 13-seed Lehigh in the Hemisfair Region.

Cubaj, of Italy, left the the game in the second quarter after taking a fall while going for a rebound. She appeared to hit the back of her head on the court and after several minutes was able to leave with assistance. She came back four minutes later to finish the half with SFA leading 34-17 – the lowest-scoring half of the season for Georgia Tech (16-8).

“The major problem for us in the first two quarters is we were not playing as together,” Cubaj said. “We were talking about how we needed to stick together. I feel like it was also like the nerves. It is our first NCAA Tournament game, so we just kind of had to get rid of those.”

The Ladyjacks shot 45% in the first half but plummeted to 15% on 4-of-26 shooting in the second half.

“Definitely the press I thought was the difference-maker for us,” said Nell Fortner, in her second year as Tech’s head coach. “Creating some turnovers and really pressuring them into some shots they might not have taken otherwise.

“I’m so proud of our kids for how hard we fought back being 17 down. Just really did a good job of fighting our way back, believing and just never giving up.”

After Cubaj’s overtime free throws gave Georgia Tech its first lead since 6-4, Anaya Boyd and Lotta-May Lahtinen sandwiched baskets around an SFA free throw for a five-point lead with 1:36 remaining. SFA freshman Avery Brittingham converted a three-point play with 47 seconds left and had a chance to tie the game at the end but missed twice under the basket before her third try went in after the buzzer.

Cubaj grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots for Georgia Tech. Lahtinen also scored 14 points and Kierra Fletcher added 11 points and nine rebounds.

After a sputtering first half, a different Tech team emerged in the third quarter, shooting 54% and outscoring SFA 19-5 and closing within 39-36 entering the final period on Loyal McQueen’s 3-pointer at the buzzer. A 10-2 Georgia Tech run created a 48-all tie with 1:12 remaining in regulation. The teams exchanged misses before SFA’s Stephanie Visscher was unable to convert a left-handed scoop shot at the buzzer.

Brittingham scored 16 points with 13 rebounds for the Ladyjacks (24-3), who had a 19-game win streak snapped. Visscher added 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“Time will heal what they’re going through right now but that’s not easy to tell them and they haven’t been at this point before and … felt that disappointment right now that we didn’t close that out,” SFA coach Mark Kellogg said. “Time will heal those wounds and we’ll look back at it, we’ll get back in a couple of weeks or whenever that point is and celebrate this and give it its, you know, the day that it deserves, because this has been a remarkable.”


Stephen F. Austin: It was a heartbreaking collapse for the Ladyjacks, but they have revived a dormant but rich NCAA Tournament history with their first appearance in 15 years. This was their 17th appearance with their last win coming in 2000. The Ladyjacks have advanced to the Sweet 16 five times, the last time in 1996.

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets were picked to finish ninth in the ACC but placed third, tied for the most ACC wins in program history and now find themselves headed for the second round after proving their resilience. They had lost 12 straight overtime games prior to Sunday.

TEXAS CONNECTIONS Fortner, who played at Texas, was a graduate assistant then an assistant coach at SFA from 1986-1990 when the Ladyjacks made three straight NCAA appearances. She’s one of 15 coaches all-time to take three different teams (Purdue, Auburn) to the NCAAs.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports

Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

Getty Images

WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.