Chapel Hill, N.C.— Georgia Tech freshman guard Sydney Wallace came off the bench for a season-high 28 points to lead the #4 seeded Yellow Jackets to a 76-50 win over the #13 seeded Sacred Heart Pioneers in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday afternoon at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill, NC.
Georgia Tech (25-8) shot 52.9% (27-51) and turned 20 Sacred Heart turnovers into 31 points on the other end in the win. The Yellow Jackets will move on to face the #5 seed Georgetown on Tuesday night.
For the first six minutes, Sacred Heart stood toe-to-toe with Georgia Tech, opening the game making four-of-eight on their way to a 9-7 lead. The game was knotted at seven thanks to Ericka Norman (Chino Hills, Calif.) landing a shot from downtown before Alexis Campbell (Ashburn, Va.) laid one in to put SHU in front 9-7 with 14:25 on the clock. The Yellow Jackets turned up the defensive pressure shutting down the Pioneers' offense and outscoring them 29-12 the rest of the half.
"Once we got our defense going, we were able to get our offense going on the other end," said Georgia Tech Head Coach MaChelle Joseph.
Sacred Heart went nearly seven minutes without a field goal before Callan Taylor (Overland Park, Kan.) ended the drought landing a jumper from the right wing. During that stretch, the Pioneers were only 1-for-11, while Georgia Tech went on a 22-3 run forcing Coach Swanson to use a time out with 5:44 left in the half.
"It wasn't one of our better games, but I thought Georgia Tech did a terrific job of taking us out of what we wanted to do," said Sacred Heart Head Coach Ed Swanson.
The Yellow Jackets extended their run to 27-7 to lead 36-16 with 1:22 left. The Pioneers finished the half on a 5-0 spurt with freshman Gabrielle Washington (Mesa, Ariz.) burying a pair of jumpers to head into halftime trailing 36-21.
All 11 Pioneer turnovers in the first half came after their 9-7 lead and Georgia Tech took advantage of those mistakes, converting the turnovers for 17 points.
The Pioneers went one-for-six before the first media time out of the second half after Taylor opened the stanza with a jumper. Georgia Tech started the second half with an 11-4 run further expanding their lead.
Washington ended a four-minute scoreless drought with a fast-break lay-in and SHU trailed 45-25. Morgan Merriman (Seattle, WA) converted a three-point play opportunity at 12:37 to trail 49-29 but the Yellow Jackets ran away from there.
Metra Walthour buried a three to start Georgia Tech on a 13-4 run that forced a SHU time-out at 9:20 and left no doubt with the Yellow Jackets up 62-33.
"We knew it was going to be 40 minutes of tough focused basketball," said Swanson. "We let up on some stretches. I told the team this shouldn't over shadow, which was a terrific year."
Sacred Heart wraps up the 2011-12 season with a 25-8 record, the fifth 20-plus-win season since joining the Division I ranks. For the third time, they are Northeast Conference champions, finishing the season 15-3 against NEC opponents earning them the regular season title, and the 58-48 win over Monmouth giving them the championship.
Taylor will go down as one of the most decorated players in Sacred Heart women's basketball history. This year's NEC Player of the Year is just the second Pioneer with 1,000 career points and rebounds. Earlier this season she became the all-time rebounding leader when she pulled down her 1,033rd board against Monmouth breaking Kelley Grey's record set 20 years earlier. Taylor closes her collegiate career with 1,822 points and 1,123 rebounds, averaging 14.5 points per game over her four years. She finished with the more combined points and rebounds than any Pioneer in school history.