Bench Play

March 18, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn

Sting Daily

– Even if you felt certain that Georgia Tech would win comfortably Sunday, there is no way you thought the Yellow Jackets would beat Sacred Heart the way they did.

Tech over-whelmed the Pioneers, and that was the reward for a season very well played, especially from Martin Luther King Jr. Day onward. The Jackets are well-seeded.

But anybody who says they thought that the Tech bench would out-play the starters — by a fair mile — was lying.

Sydney Wallace was chiefly responsible for this, making 11-of-13 shots and a whopping 6-of-8 3 pointers on her way to a career-high 28 points.

Wallace, whom coach MaChelle Joseph has said is the fastest player that she has ever coached, wasn’t really the shock factor. She’s got skills; they just have laid in the shadows for the better part of her freshman season.

Here’s the surprise: she wasn’t alone with oomph off the bench.

This is good news, as few teams are likely to go far in the Big Dance without some substantial contributions from the bench.

Still, when you look at the numbers, this was a surprise.

The starters made 10-of-29 shots for 33 points. The bench made 17-of-22 for 43 points.

Your reaction is predictable: it was a blowout so the bench played more than the starters.

Wrong.

Tech’s starters combined for 105 of 200 minutes, and reserves ate up the other 95.

Mo Bennett scored 11 points off the bench, making 4-of-5 shots and 3-of-4 free throws. She had two steals, and reserves had 50 percent of the Jackets’ dozen thefts. The bench also had six of Tech’s 13 assists.

The Pioneers’ game plan was to pack it in and slow senior center Sasha Goodlet (12 points), and keep Ty Marshall from driving. In short, keep Tech away from the basket.

Good idea: the Jackets are not known for shooting the long ball. Sunday, though, they made eight 3-pointers, and Wallace had 75 percent of them.

Starting point guard Metra Walthour had the other two.

“We wanted to give up shots, but we didn’t think Wallace would come in and shoot 6-for-8 from 3. In the stats, that’s not her, but that is the danger,” said Sacred Heart coach Ed Swanson. “You have to pick your poison, and we picked to get beat from the outside, and we picked the wrong (one).”

It was the rare day where Marshall was a non-factor. She scored her only bucket on a jumper in transition with 6:19 left in the first half, and finished with 2 points. Tech’s leading scorer — the fifth-leading scorer in the ACC this season — scored 2 points! And the Jackets won by 26.

So long as Marshall snaps out of her funk (she’ll continue to be a focal point of opponents’ scouting reports), it’s good news.

Georgetown awaits, on Tuesday.

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