Friday, January 23, 2009 12:42 AM
ATLANTA -- If North Carolina's players thought the last two games were hard to take, coach Syliva Hatchell reminded them of what's waiting Friday morning.
"Maybe I need to start a whole new five. I just don't know," Hatchell said. "We will go back and practice at 6 a.m., and we just have to get tougher."
Alex Montgomery had 17 points and 10 rebounds in Georgia Tech's 66-62 victory over No. 2 North Carolina on Thursday night, giving the Tar Heels consecutive losses for the first time since the final two games of the 2003-04 season.
Coming off an embarrassing 88-58 home loss Monday to No. 1 Connecticut, North Carolina blew a 15-point lead with 17:18 remaining.
"You would think that would motivate us more, especially after getting blown out on our home court in front of 13,000 people," Hatchell said. "That would motivate me, but sooner or later players have to make up their mind what they want."
Montgomery, whose 3-pointer with 3:37 left gave the Yellow Jackets a 60-57 lead, missed nine of her first 10 shots and needed some encouragement from the bench.
Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph just told Montgomery to play even harder on defense, which help take her mind off her offensive struggles. Following those instructions, Montgomery, a sophomore guard, hit six of her last 11 attempts from the field.
"My coach kept telling me, 'The next one's in. The next one's in,'" Montgomery said. "That's all I kept thinking in my prayers. I couldn't let my teammates down if my shot wasn't falling, so I had to do something on the floor. I had to pick it up on defense, and that's when my offense came."
North Carolina (17-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) entered with a 147-14 record since the end of 2003-04, when it closed with a loss to Duke in the ACC tournament and another to Middle Tennessee in the NCAAs.
Georgia Tech (14-4, 2-2) got 14 points from Jacqua Williams and 12 from Iasia Hemingway. The Yellow Jackets had never beaten a team ranked so high. Their previous biggest upset was Feb. 1, 2007 against No. 4 Maryland.
Each team committed 25 turnovers, but the Tar Heels had eight in the final nine-plus minutes, including a poor handoff pass outside the arc from Chay Shegog to Cetera DeGraffenreid that led to Rashanda McCants' fouling out with 21.4 seconds remaining.
McCants scored 15 points, including the only 3-pointer in six attempts for the Tar Heels in the second half.
DeGraffenreid, who missed two short runners in the final 38 seconds, struggled badly in a game-high 37 minutes North Carolina, going just 1-for-10 from the field to finish with two points, a career low in her two seasons.
McCants had five turnovers, and DeGraffenreid and Italee Lucas each committed four.
Georgia Tech beat the Tar Heels at Alexander Memorial Coliseum for the first time since 2000. Overall, the Yellow Jackets had dropped 12 straight to North Carolina.
"We got it done tonight, but the exciting thing is we get to turn around and play (at No. 4) Duke on Sunday," said Joseph, who has led Tech to two straight 20-win seasons and consecutive NCAA tournament bids. "This is how you go from being a good program to a great program. We need to go and put two good games back-to-back."
Entering with an average of 13.6 steals to trail only Duke in the ACC, Georgia Tech finished with 17, including a game-high six from Shaday Woolcock.
North Carolina's poor ball handling has led to a combined 37 steals over the last three games for Virginia, Connecticut and Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels never found a rhythm against the Yellow Jackets' pressure.
"They come after you relentlessly and play extremely physical," Hatchell said. "They get a lot done from that. They are very aggressive, and I think that was the biggest difference in the game tonight. We didn't handle the pressure very well, and think the rebounding was key."