Ga. Tech looks for long run in NCAA tourney
MaChelle Joseph conducted Georgia Tech’s practice wearing a
shirt that celebrated another trip to the NCAA tournament.
”Together We Dance,” it said on the back.
Of course, making it this far is nothing new for the Yellow
Dancing for more than a week has always been the issue.
Georgia Tech (24-8) has never made it past the second round,
keeping the program from gaining more national recognition despite
six straight NCAA appearances.
For Joseph, the team’s ninth-year coach, getting to the
tournament is no longer good enough. The Yellow Jackets need to
take the next step – to win at least two tournament games and
advance to the round of 16 for the first time.
”That’s something we’ve talked about all year,” Joseph said
Thursday. ”For this program, a Sweet 16 would be just another step
forward to making us a perennial power in women’s basketball. We
know that to be an established program, you’ve got to have some
success in the postseason.”
The Yellow Jackets are better positioned to make such a run than
This team is on quite a roll, having won 15 of 17 games and
going to the wire with fifth-ranked Maryland before losing a 68-65
thriller in the championship game at the Atlantic Coast Conference
Then Georgia Tech received a No. 4 seed, its highest ever in the
tournament, and was sent to the very familiar surroundings of
Chapel Hill, N.C. – where it plays each season as part of the ACC
schedule – for an opening-round game against 13th-seeded Sacred
Heart (25-7) on Sunday.
More important for the Yellow Jackets, the first two rounds will
be played on a true neutral court.
In those previous postseason appearances, Joseph’s team was
usually sent to some faraway site in the Midwest, where one of the
other teams had the huge advantage of playing on its home court.
The players knew their chances of advancing beyond the second round
were slim before they even got on the plane.
”It’s a big motivation,” said senior guard Metra Walthour.
”This is the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve played on
a neutral court, in a region that’s close to us. We got what we
wanted. Now, we want to go out and show we can handle it and do
something this program has never done before.”
Joseph feels good about the makeup of her team.
There are five seniors to provide leadership. One of those is
Walthour, who has started 66 straight games at point guard. Another
is 6-foot-5 Sasha Goodlett, who gives the Yellow Jackets a strong
presence on the inside.
”As long as you’ve got a point guard and a center who’ve played
as many minutes as they have,” Joseph said, ”you have a chance to
Then there’s sophomore guard Tyaunna Marshall, who wasn’t
heavily recruited out of high school. She wound up at Georgia Tech
after Joseph spotted her while scouting another player. At first,
the coach was impressive by Marshall’s high motor on defense,
figuring she would fit well in the team’s trademark pressing
Joseph had no idea Marshall would turn out to be quite the
She’s been in double figures in all but five games, scored more
than 20 points in three straight contests at the ACC tournament and
heads into the NCAAs as the team’s top offensive threat (15.3
points a game).
”Everybody is playing on the same page, Marshall said. ”We
have one common goal, one focus. We have our eyes on the prize and
we’re not going to let anything distract us.”
Indeed, Georgia Tech has already gone through a unique
experience that might prove especially beneficial in the
With the campus arena undergoing a massive renovation, the
Yellow Jackets essentially played their entire schedule on the
road. Even the so-called home games were held about 25 miles away
from campus at an arena in the sprawling Atlanta suburbs. Because
of the city’s notorious traffic, the team booked a hotel before
each game, just to make sure they didn’t show up late.
All that time spent on buses and in hotels helped the team
When the Jackets actually went on the road, it didn’t seem so
imposing. They were 10-2 in away games and 4-3 at neutral
”We took a negative and turned it into a positive,” Joseph
said. ”It really helped this program learn how to win on the road.
The fact that every single game was like a road game, that we
stayed in a hotel for every single game … I think that really
made us more road-tested and gave us more confidence on the road.
It doesn’t matter where we play. We haven’t played at home all
Now, it’s time to win two games in Chapel Hill.
”For us to have success in this program, for us to continue to
grow this program,” Joseph said, ”a Sweet 16 would really put us
on the map.”
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