by Mike Potter
CARMICHAEL ARENA/CHAPEL HILL “I bet you didn’t think you’d see us here!” Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said Saturday.
And she was absolutely right.
So with UNC’s exclusion from the field along with No. 2 seed Duke’s exile to the home court of No. 7 Vanderbilt in the Fresno Regional, the Yellow Jackets are the de facto home team for the four-team pod for games here on Sunday and Tuesday.
The action starts Sunday at 12:20, when No. 5 seed Georgetown (22-8) takes on No. 12 seed Fresno State out of the Western Athletic Conference. The No. 4 seed Yellow Jackets (24-8) — who got their two signature wins this season over the Tar Heels — will take on Sacred Heart at approximately 2:50.
The survivors meet Monday at 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to the regional in Kingston, R.I.
“I do feel like my team earned this seed for our body of work,” Joseph said. “We did not play a home game the entire season. To have the most wins in the history of the program and to not play at home says a lot about the strength and character of this team. At the same time, I never would have dreamed that this is where we would have been sent, but we’re really happy to be here. (We’re) in the middle of ACC country, and hopefully we’ll be able to pull in some of these ACC women’s basketball fans into the game because we’re here.”
Tech was runner-up in the ACC Tournament, dropping a 68-65 loss to Maryland in the final.
Sophomore guard Tyaunna Marshall (15.3, 6.4) and 6-5 senior center Sasha Goodlett (14.8, 7.5) pace the Jackets.
Sacred Heart, champion of the Northeast Conference, is in the tournament for the third time and looking for its first win. Senior forward Callan Taylor (16.5, 9.8) leads the Pioneers, followed by guard Gabrielle Washington (12.5, 3.7).
“My team is extremely focused, led by my two seniors (guard Alexis Campbell and Taylor),” Pioneers coach Ed Swanson said. “They’ve been the leaders through this whole process, starting last summer. They’ve really put forth the work and enjoying what’s coming to them. Alexis missed the first five games of the year (after a torn ACL in April) and now she’s playing her best basketball.”
Georgetown earned the high seed after going 11-5 in the Big East.
The Hoyas, led by junior guard Sugar Rodgers (18.9, 5.5) and 6-2 senior forward Tia Magee (10.9, 6.1), are 5-3 all-time in NCAA play.
Georgetown’s m.o. is to create havoc on defense for 40 minutes.
“When we’re flying all over the floor, it means everyone on the floor is very active,” Hoyas coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We’re in the passing lanes, we’re getting steals, we’re causing the other team to turn the ball over. The more we can pressure a team and the more we can cause a team to turn the ball over will give us opportunities to run and be a better transition offensive team.”
Pacing Fresno State, which has played in four NCAA Tournaments and lost in the first round each of the past four seasons, are guard Ki-Ki Moore (16.6, 7.2) and 6-1 junior forward Rosie Moult (13.1, 5.5).
“We’re real comfortable with the seed we got,” Bulldogs coach Adrian Wiggins said. “We like the matchup. Georgetown is a good team, but we have played several good teams in the last several years and in our non-conference this year. So we’re happy about that, but just to see a new part of the country, play in a new place and have another chance to experience the tournament.”