March 19, 2011
AUBURN, Ala. --- The Georgia Lady Bulldogs traveled to Auburn, Ala., on Friday to prepare for Sunday's NCAA Tournament first-round game against Middle Tennessee State. The Lady Bulldogs and Lady Raiders will meet at 6:30 p.m. CT at the Auburn Arena.
Andy Landers and players Porsha Phillips, Meredith Mitchell and Jasmine James took part in a press conference prior to the team's practice on Saturday afternoon.
"Our basketball team is excited to be participating and competing in the NCAA Tournament," Landers said. "We are excited about the challenge of playing a very good Middle Tennessee State team. They have excellent players and they are very well coached. They are good offensively and defensively. It is good to be here, and we are just anxious to get going."
Georgia owns an 11-1 lead in its all-time series with Middle Tennessee but hasn't played the Lady Raiders since Dec. 2006. Middle Tennessee's starting lineup includes freshman Ebony Rowe, a 6-1, forward who is averaging a double-double of 17.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
"I'm not sure that any one matchup is more important than the others for us from the defensive standpoint," Landers said. "Each of Middle Tennessee State's players have skills that can hurt you. Each are different. Rowe has been extremely efficient around the basket. Their four man is an excellent rebounder and is good in transition. All three of their perimeter players shoot the three very well. The point guard does what most point guards need to do. I think the matchup is Georgia against Middle Tennessee State.
"You want, as a basketball team, to go out defensively and take as much away or affect as many things as their team does effectively," Landers continued. "I think if you focus on any one particular place defensively, any one of those four other positions could hurt you enough to take up for the slack that you might affect that one particular focal point."
Phillips, the lone senior on the Georgia roster, is also averaging a double-double (11.1 ppg, 10.8 rpg).
"I think we match up pretty well with their post players," Phillips said. "Ebony Rowe is a great offensive player and a great rebounder. We just have to stop her from doing the things she likes to do."
James, a native of Memphis, played with several members of the Middle Tennessee roster during summers throughout high school.
"A lot of the players were teammates of mine or I have played against them," James said. "I am very familiar with them."
Additional press conference quotes:
On how they plan to bounce back after a tough stretch of games...
"This is like a new season for us. We need to put the regular season behind us and take this one day at a time and one game at a time and just focus on the game on Sunday."
On the death of Middle Tennessee State Player Tina Stewart...
"It is a tough thing that happened. I'm not in the position to know exactly how they feel. I have talked to a few of their players in the past few weeks; as of late, they seem to be doing much better. We've played against each other since I was in the ninth grade. We were both from Memphis and I did know her."
On a positive transition into the NCAA Tournament...
"We had to focus on rebounding the basketball more, rebounding on both ends of the floor and picking up the defensive intensity."