Yellow Jackets spoil homecoming

Yellow Jackets spoil homecoming

ATLANTA — When the starters were introduced Wednesday at McCamish Pavilion, Illinois’ Sarah Hartwell received robust applause from the 100 or so Illinois fans in attendance. The rest of the 670 folks inside Georgia Tech’s home arena stood and cheered for Hartwell, too.

The sophomore guard played her freshman season for the Yellow Jackets, and the Southern folks were showing their appreciation.

“It was cool. I still have some friends that I keep in touch with,” Hartwell said. “It was nice to have them supporting me even though I don’t play for them anymore.”

That was as accommodating as Georgia Tech would be toward the Illini during its 93-69 Big Ten/ACC Challenge victory Wednesday as the bigger, stronger Yellow Jackets harassed Illinois into 22 turnovers and turned 27 offensive rebounds into 29 second-chance points.

“I think it’s more fight. We’ve coached smaller teams in the past and been OK. We’ve given up a few, but 27 is way more than we should give up,” said Illinois coach Matt Bollant, whose team yielded 64 points in the paint.

Jacqui Grant (11 rebounds) and Ivory Crawford led the Illini with 14 points apiece, while Amber Moore added 11.

Hartwell, who sat out last season at Illinois after the transfer, finished with nine points, five assists and five turnovers.

In the postgame handshake line, she hugged Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph and some of her former teammates, with whom she played 10 games during the 2011-12 season.

“It wasn’t tough. It was more excitement, anxious. It was fun playing, but we lost,” said Hartwell, whose mom Bettye was in attendance Wednesday. “It’s always fun to come back knowing people and playing people that you played with before.”