Lady Bulldogs Return To NCAAs; Face St. Joe's Sunday
March 21, 2014
Lady Bulldogs Return To NCAAs
Any suspense there might have been about the NCAA Tournament fate of the Georgia Lady Bulldogs ended pretty quickly Monday night. About 45 seconds after the unveiling of the bracket began, Georgia appeared as the No. 8 seed in the Lincoln Regional.
The Lady Bulldogs will take on ninth-seeded Saint Joseph's at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Host and top-seeded Connecticut will face Prairie View A&M in the second game of the day at approximately 8:00 p.m. ESPN will televise both contests, with Dave O'Brien and Debbie Antonelli handling the play-by-play and color analyst responsibilities, respectively.
Sunday's contest will represent the first-ever match-up between the Lady Bulldogs and Saint Joseph's.
The Lady Bulldogs enter their 31st all-time NCAA Tournament with a 20-11 record, the 29th 20-win campaign during Andy Landers' 35 seasons on the sidelines in Athens. Georgia finished Southeastern Conference play with a 7-9 mark and in a five-way tie for sixth in the league standings.
This season, Georgia raced to an 11-0 start - equaling the seventh-best beginning in school history - and climbed as high as No. 15 in the national polls before losing five of its next six and starting SEC play 0-4 for the first time ever. The Lady Bulldogs are 8-6 since, including a quintet of victories over "March Madness" participants - Florida (twice), Kentucky, LSU and Vanderbilt.
Shacobia Barbee paces a trio of guards averaging double figures for Georgia. Barbee actually leads the Lady Bulldogs - average wise - in scoring (12.3 ppg), rebounding (7.9 rpg), assists (3.2 apg) and steals (an SEC-best and No. 19 nationally 2.7 spg). Khaalidah Miller and Erika Ford offer identical 10.7 ppg scoring averages for UGA.
Saint Joseph's sports a 22-9 overall record and finished 10-6 and tied for fifth in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The Hawks also feature three double-digit scorers in Erin Shields (14.9 ppg), Sarah Fairbanks (12.9 ppg) and Natasha Cloud (11.5 ppg). Cloud leads Saint Joseph's and ranks No. 2 nationally in assists (7.8 apg) and tops the Hawks' rebounding efforts (6.7 rpg).
Keeping an eye on...entering today's game:
Khaalidah Miller is...
Quoting Coach Landers...
On making a 20th consecutive NCAA Tournament...
On being a No. 8 seed...
On the strength of the SEC this season...
On facing Saint Joseph's...
UGA's NCAA Tournament History
The 2014 NCAA Tournament represents Georgia's 31st trip to "March Madness" since women's athletics came under the auspices of the NCAA beginning with the 1981-82 season.
The Lady Bulldogs' tally of 31 NCAA bids ranks second nationally.
UGA has made the most of those opportunities. Among the nation's top programs, Georgia ranks...
Make it 20 straight for UGA
Georgia has now received bids to each of the last 20 NCAA Tournaments, beginning with the Lady Bulldogs' 1994-95 Final Four season.
That represents the fourth longest active streak in the nation, trailing only Tennessee, Connecticut and Stanford and tied with Duke.
During that span, UGA has compiled a 37-19 (.661) record in NCAA Tournament play and advanced to 13 "Sweet 16s," seven "Elite Eights" and three Final Fours, while also reaching the 1996 NCAA Championship game.
Last Time out...
No. 5 South Carolina recorded its second win over Georgia in eight days in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament - much in the same fashion as the first match-up.
The Gamecocks grabbed an early lead and held a comfortable margin for much of the day en route to a 67-48 victory.
"It was almost identical in many ways to the game in Columbia last week," head coach Andy Landers said.
A week earlier, South Carolina built a 22-7 advantage and kept Georgia at bay en route to a 67-56 win.
In the SEC Tournament, South Carolina opened up a 10-2 lead just over five minutes into the game as the Lady Bulldogs struggled from the field and made just one of their first 11 shots.
The Gamecocks' lead reached 18 points at 27-9 with 5:49 left in the half before Merritt Hempe and Krista Donald combined to score all the points in a 9-2 run to trim the margin to 29-18 two minutes later.
South Carolina then scored the final six points of the period to push its lead back to 35-18 at the intermission. The Gamecocks' edge bulged to 25 points four minutes into the second half, and Georgia never pulled closer than 15 points thereafter.
20 wins once again
The Lady Bulldogs secured their 29th 20-win campaign during Andy Landers' 35 seasons at the University of Georgia with an SEC Tournament victory over Vanderbilt.
Georgia has reached the 20-win marker during 11 of the past 12 seasons and 15 of the last 17 campaigns.
Landers' tally of 29 20-win campaigns ranks fourth all-time among Division I women's basketball head coaches...and third among active coaches. Pat Summitt tops that ledger with 36 20-win teams followed by C. Vivian Stringer (33rd this season), Sylvia Hatchell (30th this season) and Jody Conradt (also 29).
Barbee earns SEC accolades
Shacobia Barbee was tabbed second-team All-SEC and also named to the league's All-Defensive team in voting of coaches. She was an honorable mention All-SEC pick of the AP.
Barbee leads the league and is No. 19 nationally in steals. She is currently ranked among SEC statistical leaders in seven of 13 categories kept - No. 1 in steals, No. 7 in rebounds, No. 7 in assist-to-turnover ratio, No. 7 in defensive rebounds, No. 13 in offensive rebounds, No. 13 in assists and No. 22 in points. Last season, Barbee was named to the SEC's All-Freshman and All-Defensive teams.
Ford on fire of late
Erika Ford averaged 15.6 points per game over the Lady Bulldogs' last eight regular-season outings.
Ford opened the series with a career-high 27 points at Mississippi State and followed that with 16 against Ole Miss, nine at Texas A&M, 19 versus Florida, 20 against LSU, 13 at Auburn, 17 at South Carolina and four versus Mississippi State. Add in the SEC Tournament, and she has eight double-digit outings in UGA's last 10 games.
Ford was probably most impressive against LSU. She put half of her points in the final 3:58, including four jumpers after the Lady Tigers cut Georgia's lead to a single possession.
Barbee leads here, there, everywhere
Shacobia Barbee leads Georgia in average scoring (12.3 ppg), rebounding (7.9 rpg), assists (2.3 apg) and steals (an SEC-leading 2.7 spg).
Barbee is the only player in the SEC, one of seven Division I players nationally and one of three competing in the NCAA Tournament who leads her team in ppg, rpg, apg and spg as outlined below.
For the record, no player has ever led UGA in all four stats in 40 seasons of competition.
Miller tops millennium, moves up more
Khaalidah Miller became Lady Bulldog Basketball's 35th 1,000-point scorer during the Nov. 19 victory over Furman.
The Atlanta native has since moved up to No. 22 among Georgia's career scoring leaders, most recently passing both Tawana McDonald and Stacey Ford during the Lady Bulldogs' Feb. 16 win over Florida in Athens.
Miller enters the Saint Joseph's game 105 points shy of the current No. 21 tally of 1,396 points by Camille Lowe and 106 from the No. 20 tally of 1,397 points by Lady Hardmon.
Donald quite a story for Georgia
To say that Krista Donald's left knee is held together with duct tape might be an exaggeration, but the contributions of the junior from Lake, Miss., could not be overstated.
Donald was plagued throughout most of her first two seasons with a nagging posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in her left knee that severely limited her practice and playing time.
An arthroscopic procedure last summer to "clean up" the knee has allowed Donald to fully display her vast skill set.
Donald began the year with a career high of 22 minutes versus Appalachian St, in 2011-12.
This season, Donald has logged more than 22 MP in 28 of 31 games, including 17 outings of 30-plus minutes, a 40-minute game at Florida and a career-high 44 MP at Texas A&M.
The MPG increase only begins to tell Donald's story. After averaging 3.9 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.3 mpg her first two seasons, she is currently contributing 8.6 ppg and 6.9 rpg in 29.9 mpg in 2013-14.
Donald reached double digits in just six of her first 55 games played at Georgia but has now done so in 13 of her last 24 outings.
Hempe posts Career high...for 4th time
Merritt Hempe wrapped up the regular season with a career-high 22 points against Mississippi State while matched up with 2014 SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year Martha Alwal.
That marked the fourth time this season Hempe has posted a career-high output.
Hempe's first career-best came with 13 points against Mercer on Nov. 14, topping the mark set last season versus Presbyterian on...wait for it...Nov. 14.
FYI, Nov. 14 is now known within UGA circles as "Hem-pee DAY!"...spoken with the same tone and emphasis as the camel in the popular TV commercial pertaining to Wednesdays.
Hempe has since upped that career high with 18 points against Kennesaw State, 19 at Texas A&M and 22 versus Mississippi State.
Hempe also posted her first career double-double this season with 15 points and 11 boards against Kentucky.
UGA's Second NCAAs In Storrs
Georgia is making its second trip to Gampel Pavilion for NCAA Tournament action.
On March 13, 1998, the seventh-seeded Lady Bulldogs were upset by 10th-seeded George Washington, 74-72, in the first round of that edition of "March Madness." That season was the freshman campaign of twins Coco and Kelly Miller, who went on to help lead Georgia to the 1999 Final Four, the 2000 SEC Championship and the 2001 SEC Tournament title.
Georgia led 35-26 following a pair of free throws by Angie Ball (Watson), wife of 2012 Master's Champion Bubba Watson, with 3:09 left in the first half. George Washington then closed the period on a 12-4 run and opened the second stanza with a 12-6 surge to go up 50-45.
After six ties and eight lead changes, the Colonials took the lead for good with 2:22 left.
Kelly Miller led four Lady Bulldogs in double figures with 16 points, while Elisa Aguilar paced the Colonials with 31 points.
UGA's third trip to Storrs
No. 4 Georgia defeated No. 3 Connecticut, 75-67, in a nationally televised, Martin Luther King Jr. Day game on January 15, 1996.
Saudia Roundtree scored 27 points, dished out six assists, grabbed four rebounds and collected two steals to lead Georgia. That performance vaulted Roundtree into National Player of the Year consideration. She eventually was honored as such by the WBCA, Naismith, the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association, the UPI, Basketball America and the ESPYs.
Lady Bulldogs tie Home Win record
UGA tied its record for home wins with 15 victories at Stegeman Coliseum this season.
Georgia's 1983-84 and 1990-91 SEC Championship teams compiled perfect 15-0 at what was then known as the Georgia Coliseum.
A year ago, the Lady Bulldogs compiled a 15-1 record to match that win total.
In the process, Georgia has improved to 419-87 all-time in Stegeman Coliseum dating back to the 1975-76 season, equating to a rather sterling 82.8 winning percentage.
The Lady Bulldogs were just 14-24 in four seasons of play within the Coliseum prior to Andy Landers' arrival in 1979. That makes Landers-coached Georgia teams an even more impressive 405-63 (86.5) at Stegeman.
Games decided American Idol Style
In nine of UGA's 31 games, the team trailing at halftime has rallied to win...after the break.
The Lady Bulldogs have come back from an intermission deficit to win five times, doing so against Ohio State, versus Furman, at Georgia State, at Florida and against Kentucky.
Georgia surrendered a halftime lead in four of its SEC road losses - at Vanderbilt, at Missouri, at Texas A&M and at Auburn.
Winning season in the bag
Georgia's Feb. 9 victory over Ole Miss guaranteed a 35th consecutive winning campaign under Andy Landers.
That represents the third-longest active streak of winning seasons in Division I women's basketball, trailing only Tennessee (41st in 2013-14) and Green Bay (37th in 2013-14).
While winning seasons are now commonplace for UGA, that wasn't always the case. The Lady Bulldogs were a woeful 37-85 (.303) in their first seven seasons of intercollegiate play.
Georgia has since averaged 24.2 wins a season since Landers arrived in 1979.
Lady Bulldogs hit "Magic Number"
Georgia has reached the 80-point plateau six times this season and, in the process, improved perhaps any sports' greatest statistical indicator other than scoring more points.
The Lady Bulldogs are now 431-6 when putting up 80 or more points during Andy Landers' 35 seasons in Athens. That equates to a winning percentage of 98.62700228833.
Taking advantage of the charity
Although Georgia is last in the SEC and 324th nationally in free throw percentage, UGA has been much better at the line of late.
With 1:46 remaining in its Jan. 16 win over Arkansas, Georgia had made 192-of-329 attempts at the charity stripe on the year, just a paltry 58.4 percent. The Lady Bulldogs then hit 8-of-10 FTs in the final 106 seconds to preserve a 60-58 win over the Razorbacks.
Beginning with that sequence and continuing through the last 13 contests, Georgia is 151-of-220 at the line, a much more respectable 68.6 percent.
Andy Landers' confidence in his players' abilities to knock down free throws never wavered, largely due to what he saw in practice.
"We shoot them great in practice just about every day," Landers said. "I didn't think it was broke. I just thought it was something a young team needed to get comfortable with in games. We shoot a good percentage in practice. I know we have good strokes."
Freshman Starter sorority grows
Andy Landers has continued his long-standing penchant of putting freshmen in the Lady Bulldogs' starting five.
Sydnei McCaskill got the nod against Presbyterian to become the 73rd freshman to start during Landers' 35 seasons at UGA and the 23rd do so in her Lady Bulldog debut.
McCaskill played all 40 minutes versus the Blue Hose, joining Coco Miller as the only Lady Bulldog freshmen to play every second of their collegiate opener.
Halle Washington became No. 74 on Georgia's freshman starter list five games later against S.C. State.
Barbee is one of the 23 freshmen to start their collegiate opener.
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