March 23, 2012
Georgia Tech Head Coach MaChelle Joseph
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
How do you balance the satisfaction of doing something this program hasn’t done before, but at the same time, not being satisfied?
“We’re very excited to be among the elite programs in women’s basketball and have an opportunity to compete at the highest level in the Sweet 16 against the No. 1 team in the country, Baylor. We have such great senior leadership and resiliency, that last night after we won, it was like `ok, what’s next’. It wasn’t `this is the end, we’ve hit the pinnacle’, it was `ok, what’s next coach’. I think even though we’re excited and happy for our program to be at a new level and be among the Sweet 16, we’re excited about this opportunity we’re going to have Saturday.”
When and how did the light come on for Sydney Wallace?
“I think what happened with Sydney Wallace was that her coach finally figured out to play her more minutes. One of the things to look at is, she may have only been averaging six or seven minutes, but she was scoring six or seven points in six or seven minutes. When she started hitting shots against Sacred Heart in the first round, I was like we’ve got to play her because Ty Marshall, our leading scorer, was struggling a little bit. Sydney stepped up and made huge plays, and scored 51 points in two games, an amazing accomplishment for a freshman.
It’s kind of what happens at this time of the season. What does it mean to have a player get hot like that?
“It’s kind of interesting, we brought Sydney Wallace here to score and she’s known as a prolific scorer. But like you mention, this is the time of year when players step up and make things happen that people aren’t expecting, that’s when you get wins and upsets happen.”
You’re making history, but now you’re playing a game that you know will be in the spotlight.
“It’s exciting, it’s exciting to put Georgia Tech in that position, to bring this program into a game where you’re playing the number one, undefeated team in the country. You know everyone follows Baylor and the success they’ve had over the last several years. Just to know that Georgia Tech is going to be in that position is really fulfilling for me, for our players, because we’ve worked extremely hard to get this program to this point and be considered one of the elite powers in women’s basketball.”
Everybody knows about Griner, but Sims looks like a player you’re going to have to control too.
“Well Odyssey Sims is a tremendous guard. We face those types of players every day in the ACC, so it’s not a situation where we haven’t seen someone like her. Obviously we have a lot of respect for her game, she’s quick, she’s athletic, she can shoot the three, she can put it on the floor, very similar to Sugar Rodgers and some of the guards we see in the ACC from Miami that we’ve had to face year in and year out. She’s somebody we’re prepared for. Griner is something totally different. You don’t see a player like Griner every day. In fact, you hardly ever face a player like Brittney Griner. Odyssey Sims and Brittney Griner are one of the best inside-outside combinations in the country.”
With Brittney Griner, is the preparation more about your offense or defense?
“I think it has to be both. There is no doubt that she alters the game with her blocked shots. She averages five blocks a game. Elizabeth Williams at Duke averages four blocks a game, so we’ve faced someone who is a tremendous shot blocker. Watching Griner block shots, 90 percent of them go out of bounds, so you’re going to get the ball back. What we have to do is not worry about. She’s going to block shots, just get the ball back and go back at her. It’s one of those things that you have to have a relentless effort when you play against someone like her. You can’t let it bother you that she’s going to get deflections, she’s going to block shots, you just have to play through it.”
How much is Sasha Goodlett looking forward to playing against Brittney Griner?
“I think Sasha is really excited about the opportunity. Her freshman year, she played against the Paris girls at Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament. Now she’s getting to play Brittney Griner. In four years, she’s played two of the most prolific college centers in the country in the NCAA Tournament I think is exciting for her. She played pretty well against Oklahoma as a freshman. To come out here with this chance to play against Brittney Griner, she has nothing to lose. I think that’ll be her approach and her mentality. When she went up against Elizabeth Williams, she had 25 points and five rebounds. Yes Elizabeth Williams blocked her shot, but she just grabbed it and went right back at her. I’m looking forward to the matchup. I think it’s a great opportunity for us and it’s a great opportunity for our program. We respect everyone but we fear no one.”
Is Chelsea Regins someone you might put on Griner a bit and give her a chance to bang against Griner and give Sasha a bit of a rest?
“Chelsea is definitely going to play. Chelsea is our sixth man, she comes in and gives us our toughness and rebounding and physicality. She was 6-of-6 from the field against Georgetown. No doubt she’s an X factor.”
Number one I assume the team is really pumped up about this, it’s been the goal to get to this point. Do you have to address where they are not satisfied with this? Are you worried at all? Do you have to remind them that the season isn’t over, we could still do something special?
“I don’t think I have to remind them. Last night after the game, we were excited but it didn’t feel like `this is it’. Even one of the reporters in the press conference said you don’t seem that excited and Metra Walthour said `because we’re not done, this isn’t over.’ We’re just trying to figure out what’s next and how we prepare for Baylor. That’s our mindset. We have nothing to lose, we have absolutely nothing to lose and those kinds of teams are scary at this time of the year.”
Does it feel different now? You’ve said this is where you want to bring this program too?
“It actually does. It feels like we finally have accomplished a milestone. It’s always been one stepping stone after another. Every year it seemed like we got a couple more wins, went a little further in the ACC Tournament, went a little further in the NCAA Tournament. This feels like a milestone. This feels like winning an ACC Championship would. Those are major milestones. Everyone was asking `well when are you going to get over that hump?’ I think we’ve gotten over that hump. This program has been here for a long time, and for us to have never been in a Sweet 16, I think it’s long overdue and I’m just really proud to be a part of it.”
When you knew it was going to happen, what was your overriding emotion?
“I was just really excited for my seniors. I think that’s the thing, the last five minutes of the game, that’s what was going through my mind, was that we’re actually going to do this. They’re going to reach their goals. It was gratification. But it was also we’re still playing, we’re still dancing. This time of the year, you just keep thinking what’s next, you have to move on. I think the feeling was just gratification that people that have worked and sacrificed and really invested a lot in this program are going to be rewarded with a trip to the Sweet 16.”
Sasha really took over last night. Can you just talk about how far she’s come?
“Sasha was great last night. I thought one of the things too was that, early in her career, if she didn’t touch the ball for the first 10 minutes of the game, which happened last night, she would’ve kind of gotten lost, and wouldn’t have come back. It was a tie game, 10 minutes into the game, then it dawned on me that Sasha hadn’t touched the ball. The next five possessions we went to her and she scored on four of the five and really caused the separation and we never looked back from there.
It’s really come full circle. Sasha started her career playing against a player of the year in Courtney Paris in the NCAA Tournament and will finish her career playing against a player of the year in Brittney Griner.
“I’ll never forget after we played Oklahoma, Courtney Paris, came up to Sasha after the game, and said `you’re going to be a great player, you’re going to be a pro.’ That was a big stepping stone for her because her self-confidence at that point, she was not sure what she was doing at Georgia Tech or in the ACC. To look back now and know she’s going to be a pro, to know she’s going to be a first-round draft pick, and now she’s going up against the one of the best centers in the country, it has come full circle.”