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Georgia Tech smothers Bowling Green, 69-58

The toll of Georgia Tech's constant pressure was revealed in a look.

Sasha Goodlett took care of things in the paint with 19 points, and the fifth-seeded Yellow Jackets used their relentless pressure to force 25 turnovers in beating Bowling Green 69-58 Saturday in the NCAA tournament.

"Every time we trapped, they'd look at me," said Alex Montgomery, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets (24-10). "It was like they were scared. We knew we had to keep it coming, keep it coming. I could see it in their eyes."

The Falcons (28-5) had never seen anything like Georgia Tech's swarming, trapping defense blanketing all 94 feet of the court.

"We're not used to being pressed for 40 minutes in a game," said Lauren Prochaska, who led the Falcons with 19 points. "They wore us down."

Bowling Green came in making more than eight 3-pointers a game. But it didn't make any until trailing by 15 points and finished only 2 of 6 behind the arc.

"The tale of the game today was our defensive effort," said Yellow Jackets coach MaChelle Joseph. "Being able to stop the 3-point shot the way we were able to, but also making them turn the ball over 25 times. They're a great team. They turn the ball over only 13 times a game.

"To force that many turnovers and to stop the 3-point shot was key."

The 25 turnovers were the most by the Falcons, winners of the Mid-American Conference tournament, in a game all season. But it was nothing new for Georgia Tech, which has forced as many as 35 this year.

The Jackets' pressure-cooker of a press started paying dividends at the start of the second half. The Falcons had an over-and-back call just 3 seconds in, part of six turnovers on their first nine possessions.

Unlike the first 20 minutes, the Yellow Jackets were able to make a long pass after a steal and it was usually Ty Marshall who turned it into points at the other end. Marshall, who finished with 14 points, had three buckets by simply getting behind the Falcons for breakaway layups in the first 5 minutes of the half as Georgia Tech stretched a 33-32 lead at the break to 45-36.

Bowling Green, with Prochaska stifled by Georgia Tech's skintight defense, couldn't seem to find her range. The Falcons went scoreless for more than 4 minutes in an 8-0 Yellow Jackets run that swelled the lead to 57-42.

The Falcons never threatened again.

The Yellow Jackets were upset that they had to play a 12th seed in its home state. Now they could end up playing another local favorite in Monday's second round. Fourth-seeded Ohio State, in action on its backup home court, met Central Florida in the nightcap.

About the only thing that troubled them was foul trouble. Goodlett carried three fouls in the first half and four for most of the second, as did another starter, Deja Foster. But the Yellow Jackets have nine players who average at least nine minutes a game, more than enough depth to compensate for the limitations on those two players.

The crowd was predominantly pro-Bowling Green, with the Falcons' campus just a two-hour drive away. They were making their seventh straight postseason trip, but their record in the NCAA tournament fell to 3-11 overall.

"They're a physical, big team," Bowling Green coach Curt Miller said of the Yellow Jackets. "They try to wear you down with their defensive pressure over 40 minutes. Obviously, we succumbed a little bit to that pressure."

Georgia Tech's No. 5 seeding is its best in seven NCAA appearances. Making a record fifth-straight trip to the NCAA tournament, the Yellow Jackets received an at-large bid thanks to a grueling schedule that included 11 teams that made the NCAA field — with only two of them seeded lower than No. 6.

The toughness developed during a difficult regular season surely helped them on Saturday.

"The effort we put in on the defensive end today was just tremendous," Joseph said.

The eyes proved it.