Georgia Tech's Sydney Wallace scored a season-high 28 points to lead the Lady Yellow Jackets past Sacred Heart, 76-50, on Sunday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament’s Des Moines Regional.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Georgia Tech’s Mo Bennett came out of the huddle, looked over at teammate LaQuananisha Adams and shrugged her shoulders.
She couldn’t believe the show freshman Sydney Wallace was putting on, either.
Wallace scored a season-high 28 points to lead the Lady Yellow Jackets past Sacred Heart, 76-50, on Sunday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament’s Des Moines Regional.
“Obviously, Sydney Wallace was a huge factor (Sunday). We brought her to Georgia Tech to score, and she’s done that in spurts throughout the whole ACC season,” coach MaChelle Joseph said. “She took it to a whole other level.”
Wallace finished 11 of 13 while Sasha Goodlett added 12 points and 11 rebounds.
They helped Georgia Tech (25-8) set the school’s single-season wins record and avoid being upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years.
The fourth-seeded Yellow Jackets used a huge run in the first half to take command and didn’t allow the Pioneers to get closer than 13 after the break while claiming a spot in the second round opposite fifth-seeded Georgetown on Tuesday night.
Gabrielle Washington had 13 points and Callan Taylor added 10 for Sacred Heart (27-6). The 13th-seeded Pioneers made their third appearance in the tournament since 2006 but remained winless in it.
“We knew it was going to be 40 minutes of really tough, focused basketball,” Sacred Heart coach Ed Swanson said. “I told the team in the locker room not to overshadow what has been a terrific year.”
Bennett added 11 points for the Yellow Jackets, who shot nearly 53 percent. They forced 20 turnovers and turned them into 31 points.
They didn’t need much from leading scorer Tyaunna Marshall — a 17.6-point scorer who finished with two points on 1-of-7 shooting — to win their 12th in 14 games.
“You have to give something up, and we wanted to give up the perimeter shot,” Swanson said. “We wanted to give up shots, but we didn’t think Wallace would come in and shoot 6 for 8 from 3. In the stats, that’s not her, but that is the danger. … You have to pick your poison, and we picked to get beat from the outside, and we picked the wrong (one).”
Georgia Tech, which already set a school record with 12 Atlantic Coast Conference wins and reached the league championship game for just the second time in program history, made sure the best season in school history would last a little longer. A victory over the Hoyas would put the Yellow Jackets into the round of 16 for the first time.
Joseph’s team was wary of a repeat of 2010, when the Yellow Jackets were seeded sixth but were outplayed in a loss to 11th-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock.
That wasn’t going to happen this time. Not with Wallace performing like this.
“I felt that I was open, so when I’m open and my teammates find me, it’s my role to knock down shots,” Wallace said.
She played a total of 22 minutes during her team’s three-game run at the ACC tournament, and entered averaging 3.2 points.
But she hit all five of her shots — including three 3s — during the 25-3 first-half run that gave Georgia Tech all the separation it would need. Her jumper put Georgia Tech up 11-9 with 12 minutes left, and she hit three 3-pointers during the spurt — including one that capped it and made it 32-12 with 4:45 before the break.
Wallace added 10 more points during the 26-10 burst shortly after halftime that turned this one into a full-fledged rout. That put her well past her previous high of 16 points set last month against Clemson.