March 20, 2012
By Jon Cooper
– The joke on NCAA Tournament Selection Monday was that Georgia Tech would be happy going anywhere…as long as it wasn’t Iowa.
Well, the Yellow Jackets are on their way to Des Moines, Iowa, and there’s no place they’d rather be going.
No joke. For the first time in school history, Georgia Tech is going to the Sweet 16.
“This trip to Iowa is way different,” said senior center Sasha Goodlett. “We’d never made it past the first round. We were like, ‘Oh, thank God we’re not going to Iowa for the first games.’ Having familiar territory the first weekend was great but now we have to finish off the job. We’re happy and we’re eager that we finally get to Iowa to play in the Sweet 16 and play for a championship.”
Freshman guard Sydney Wallace scored a game-high 23 points and Goodlett added 14 and a game-high 11 rebounds, as the fourth-seeded Yellow Jackets beat No. 5 Georgetown, 76-64
Wallace, who shot 11-for-13 and 6-for-8 from three in Tech’s first-round 76-50 victory over Sacred Heart, did a similar number on Georgetown, scoring a game-high 23 on 9-for-20 shooting, 5-for-14 from three, to fuel the Jackets. She became the first Yellow Jacket to score more than 20 points in her first two career NCAA Tournament games and had 51 points in 46 minutes of action at Carmichael Arena.
For the second straight game she carried the load offensively in the first half following another tough night for Ty Marshall, who played only 11 minutes all game and scored only two points. The freshman had 14 in the first half as Tech carried a 37-31 lead into the locker room. Goodlett added nine points and six rebounds in the first 20.
“Sycney is heaven sent,” said Goodlett. “Ever since she came in during the summer we knew Sydney Wallace was special. She’a a great shooter. She knows how to create her own shot. She’s one of the most creative players I’ve ere seen coming in as a freshman.
“We just knew she was on to something,” Goodlett added. “When Sydney’s feeling it she’s just feeling. it. We just rallied behind her and were like, ‘Just give Sydney the ball.’ When they started over-playing her that’s when we said, ‘Okay Sash, they’re playing out. The post is open. Go to work.’ It was a great combination.”
The combination of the freshman and the senior scored seven points in a key 9-0 first-half run that gave Tech a 31-23 lead with 3:13 to play in the half. Tech never trailed again.
Although outrebounded by Georgetown 21-16 in the half, 12-5 on the offensive glass, Tech shot a blistering 55.2 percent. The Jackets’ signature defense stepped up holding the Hoyas to 38.9, and only 28.6 (2-for-7) from three, limiting their leading scorer “Sugar” Rodgers to two points on 1-for-7 shooting.
Tech continued the defensive pressure in the second 20, holding the Hoyas under 30 percent from the field (9-for-32) and only 33.3 percent from behind the arc. Rodgers finished with 12 points on 4-for-19. Tia McGee was the only other double-digit scorer with 10.
In the second half, the Jackets opened on a 10-4 run to extend the lead to double-digits and by the time Goodlett scored her fifth straight point for the Jackets at the 9:48 mark, Tech was up 14 and could feel history in the making.
Tech’s seniors, who extended their school-record for career wins by gaining their 95th, took over in the second half, as after Wallace hit a three at 14:18 to complete the half-opening run, the seniors scored 17 of the next 20 points, as Tech blew the game open. Walthour’s three at 4:16 opened the lead to 69-54. The Hoyas never got closer than 10.
The defense closed the door, allowing the Hoyas one field goal over the final six minutes, that coming on a three with 49 seconds left and Tech up 76-61. Tech held Georgetown to 1-for-13 shooting over the final six minutes.
“We’re happy that we made it to the Sweet 16 but we don’t want anybody to think that we’re content,” said Goodlett. “We know there’s another game to play and as long as there’s another game to play we’re going to work hard. We’re going to be happy right now and tonight but as soon as we wake up tomorrow we know it’s time to get ready and time to get prepared.”
They’ll be preparing for the Tournament’s top seed, Baylor, with Big 12 and consensus National Player of the Year Brittney Griner. The Bears beat Florida, 76-57.
But preparing for Baylor can wait for at least one night.
After all, a night like this doesn’t come often — 38 years to be exact.
“It feels great,” said Goodlett. “This whole year we’ve been talking about how we wanted to make history and take this program in a big way and step it up. Having the most wins in GT history is great. Getting to the ACC Title game was great. But we didn’t want to stop there. We were confident that if we came in, stayed focused and trusted the game plan we would make history and make it to the Sweet 16.
“That’s all the seniors had in mind,” she added. “Get to the Sweet 16, make a name for ourselves and this program.”