March 18, 2012
By Jon Cooper
On Sunday afternoon, Wallace chose the nation’s biggest stage to display what her coach was talking about.
The freshman from John’s Creek (Northview, H.S.), went for a career-high 28 points, on 11-for-13 shooting, 6-for-8 from three, to lead fourth-seeded Georgia Tech to a 76-50 rout of Sacred Heart in its NCAA Tournament opener at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill, N.C.
“Obviously Sydney Wallace was a huge factor today, ” said Joseph. “We brought her to Georgia Tech to score and she’s done that in spurts throughout the whole ACC season. Today she took it to a whole other level.”
Wallace, who made one more three than the entire Pioneer team — couldn’t have chosen a better time to step up, as the Jackets got only one field goal and two points from Ty Marshall. While Marshall’s off-night at such an inopportune time might normally have been a recipe for disaster, on Sunday, it simply meant deferring to the freshman.
“I was a little nervous at first but once I got some confidence I knew I could step up for my team and play my role,” said Wallace, whose previous highs were 16 points, six field goals and four three-pointers — all coming on Feb. 26 against Clemson (she also had four threes on Feb. 19 against Boston College. “I thought my teammates did a great job of finding me when I was open, in the corners or wherever.”
Pretty much anywhere was a good spot to shoot for Wallace and the Jackets, who shot 52.9 percent for the game and 66.7 from three (8-for-12). Tech came in averaging 3.9 three-pointers per game on 31.6 percent shooting.
Wallace hit a jumper to break a 9-9 tie and spark a 25-3 run over a 7:15 span that gave Tech a 32-12 lead. The Jackets never looked back, leading 36-21 at the half and by double-digits throughout the final 20.
The win was Yellow Jackets’ 25th of the season, a new school single-season high and allowed them to advance to the second round for the third time in four years.
Georgia Tech, which earned its highest seed ever in its school-record sixth straight tournament appearance, frustrated the 13th-seeded Pioneers, who were making their first appearance since 2006 and were looking for the Northeast Conference’s first win in NCAA Tournament play. Tech held Sacred Heart to 39.2 percent shooting, only 27.8 from three (5-for-18), while forcing 20 turnovers, which were converted into 31 points. The Jackets also put the clamps on Northeast Conference Player of the Year Callan Taylor, who managed 10 points. Gabrielle Washington led Sacred Heart with 13 points.
Tech, which has never advanced past the second round, will play for a berth in the Sweet 16 on Tuesday night, when it takes on BIG EAST power Georgetown, which held off stubborn Fresno State, 61-56. The Jackets lost their only previous meeting against the Hoyas, 67-58, two years ago at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
There was no Sydney Wallace then. This time, with her feet under her in NCAA Tournament play and her confidence soaring, she feels she can make a difference and knows that against the Hoyas she has to.
“As far as Georgetown, with their zone, not only I have to step up once again on the perimeter but also other teammates who are shooters have to step up as well,” she said. “That opens up other options not only outside but inside as well. I have to continue to step up, from my teammates, So we can advance and go further in the NCAA Tournament.”