The Dominator

Jan. 16, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

If Sasha Goodlett were a more colorful personality, one more bent on self-promotion, she’d be leading a movement to change her name to something more apropos to her dominating level of play.

Something like “Greatlett,” or “Sasha-sational.”

But, the 6-5 senior center doesn’t say much to help herself in that regard. She lets her game and her coach speak for her.

Goodlett has given Georgia Tech Women’s Basketball Head Coach MaChelle Joseph plenty to talk about.

Joseph answers questions about how good — make that great — her senior center has been so frequently that it’s pretty much become a nightly postgame ritual. Just switch out the final numbers.

“Sasha has been playing consistently well throughout the course of the season,” Joseph said following the Yellow Jackets’ 68-58 win at Boston College Sunday afternoon. “She’s really become our focal point on offense, but she does so many things on the defensive end with her rebounding and ability to alter shots. I think she’s one of the top five players in the ACC. She’s averaging almost 20 points per game in ACC play. She’s been a very dominant force for us on the inside.”

Against the Eagles, Goodlett recorded her fifth double-double of the season, putting in 26 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. But to show how she’s come on of late, it marked her fourth in six games and her third in four.

The three-in-four stretch is most important as those games came against ACC opponents. In those four games, Goodlett has averaged 21.0 points and 10.5 rebounds. She’s shooting 43.1 percent and has put up 17, 11, 18 and 19 shots.

The willingness to shoot shows an aggressiveness that is a departure from early in the year, when Goodlett seemed more timid. In the team’s first seven games she put up more than 10 shots one time.

One of those games was the now well-chronicled Nov. 25th game against No. 13 Rutgers when she shot 1-for-9 and looked tentative. The game and, more important, what followed has proved to be the turning point which brought Goodlett to this point.

“I think a lot of people, including the coaching staff and her teammates, challenged Sasha after that game that we needed her,” said Joseph. “We know she’s our go-to player and we need her to be consistent with it. She’s accepted that challenge and ever since then, she’s stepped up to the plate, she’s been a presence and she’s established herself as a go-to player.”

Goodlett has become that go-to and a leader-by-example that Joseph and the team needs and is following in the footsteps of some of her influential predecessors.

“I’ve had good examples within our past years, with Alex Montgomery, Deja Foster, Brigitte Ardossi,” said Goodlett. “Whenever they had a bad game they responded. I felt like they had tremendous toughness. Hopefully I’m just passing it on down from what I witnessed from the seniors I had, that it’s okay to have a bad game, just as long as you know that it’s not the end of the world and that you bounce back and you come back and work harder.”

Her bounce back is reminiscent of Ardossi, Montgomery, and Foster and has turned Goodlett into a monster, a devastating offensive and defensive weapon that Joseph and the team can count on.

“Most of the top teams in the ACC have a great center, a go-to player inside that carries their team,” Joseph said. “For us to have the kind of success that we want to have, the type of success we’ve had in the past, she’s going to have to be a presence, night in and night out in the ACC.”

Goodlett has done that. In ACC play, she ranks seventh in scoring (16.5 ppg), is tied for fourth in rebounding (8.5 rpg), is 11th in field goal percentage (48.0) and second in blocked shots (2.3 bpg). Among ACC centers, only UNC’s Chey Shegog scores more, only Duke’s Elizabeth Williams pulls down more rebounds, only Wake’s Lindsy Wright, Williams, and Clemson’s Quinyotta Pettaway shoot for a higher percentage, and only Williams has more blocks.

Her dominance in the paint has forced opposing teams to pay attention, freeing up Tech’s perimeter game. It’s no coincidence that Metra Walthour is having her best three-point-shooting year.

The Yellow Jackets will face their biggest test of the season on Wednesday night at the Arena at Gwinnett, when No. 5 Duke comes to town.

To beat the Blue Devils for the first time in the MaChelle Joseph era (they are 0-12) and the first time since 1994 (a 33-game losing streak) Goodlett will need to win her mano-a-mano battle with Williams, the freshman sensation who is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder and the ACC’s top shot-blocker.

Sounds like a challenge and Goodlett has shown how she responds to a challenge.

Like all great ones do.

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