Photo: Craig Cappy Georgia Tech's Dawn Maye (1) drives against Maryland's Sherena Taylor (3) during Monday's game at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
DULUTH -- The Georgia Tech women were out for more than revenge Monday night in the Arena at Gwinnett Center. The Yellow Jackets were hoping to finally get an ellusive signature victory.
Georgia Tech didn't accomplish either.
No. 9-ranked Maryland pulled away late and defeated the No. 24 Yellow Jackets 64-56 behind 23 points each from Alyssa Thomas and Tianna Hawkins.
"It's about them believing we're a Top 10 team," Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said of her Yellow Jackets. "We're as good as Maryland. ... We're in every game. We're not getting blowout.
"But we have to believe that we can beat the best teams. We're at that turning point."
This loss might not have been as painful as blowing a 20-point lead at Maryland on Jan. 6. But it was just as costly.
The top four teams in the ACC draw first-round byes in the conference tournament and the loss dropped the Yellow Jackets (17-7) into fifth place with a 7-4 record. Maryland (20-3) is 7-3 after the regular-season sweep.
All of Georgia Tech's losses have come to Top 25 teams, but that hardly makes the Yellow Jackets feel better. They need to show that they can beat a top team.
"I feel that we are right there," center Sasha Goodlett said.
Georgia Tech scored 10 straight points and took the lead at 54-52 with 3:13 remaining on Tyauna Marshall's driving basket. But the Yellow Jackets' only points the rest of the game came on a basket by Goodlett with 5.2 seconds left.
Maryland made eight straight free throws in the closing minutes and finished 17 of 19 at the foul line. Georgia Tech was 6 of 8.
"I'm very proud that we kept our poise and composure," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said about the way her team finished the game.
Hawkins was 11 of 13 from the floor and she had nine rebounds to go with her career-best 23 points.
Maryland out-rebounded Georgia Tech 43-28 and had 19 second-chance points to six for the Yellow Jackets.
"We knew that rebounding would be a key," Frese said.
"We're used to being a team that gets two and three shots," Joseph said. "But we got beat on the boards and that was one of the differences in the game."
The Yellow Jackets led 56-36 early in the second half at Maryland on Jan. 6. But Thomas scored 18 of her 24 points from that point on and hit a jumper to put the Terps ahead with 17 seconds remaining in the 77-74 comeback victory.
"We stole one at our place and we knew we had to come out with a lot of energy from the start," said Thomas, who was 12-for-12 at the foul line in the rematch after going 10-for-10 in the first game.
Georgia Tech led 24-14 with less than four minutes left in the first half after a 15-6 run. But Maryland scored the final 10 points to tie the game despite shooting just 30 percent for the half.
Thomas had 10 points and Tianna Hawkins eight at halftime. Defense ruled, though, with each team committing 12 turnovers.
"I was pleased with our defense," Joseph said.
Maryland used an 8-0 run to go up 52-44 with six minutes left, but Georgia Tech then scored 10 straight to go on top before the Terps regained control.
"Basketball is a game of runs," said Goodlett, who led the Yellow Jackets with 15 points.
Georgia Tech owns a victory over Nebraska this season, but that was before the Huskers entered the national rankings.
With five ACC teams in the Top 25, though, the Yellow Jackets still have more opportunities for a breakthrough.
"We've got to learn from these losses," Georgia Tech's Chelsea Regins said.