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Post Lady Dogs hand Ole Miss first SEC loss

Friday January 26, 2007

Ole Miss has emerged as a challenger to the usual teams on top of SEC women’s basketball (Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, and Vanderbilt). Carol Ross, forever the coach at Florida, finally has Ole Miss rebuilt and competing at a high level. They started 5-0 in SEC play, scored home wins over LSU and Vanderbilt, and cracked the top 25. They feature a sharpshooting guard attack and lead the SEC in scoring behind superstar Arminte Price.

With consecutive SEC games against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, Georgia saw the two teams most capable of taking Georgia’s place in the SEC power rankings. The Lady Dogs proved to be up to that challenge. They held off Vanderbilt last week, and last night they prevailed in a tough game against Ole Miss.

We thought that Tasha Humphrey was back after big games against Vandy and FSU last week. She even earned SEC Player of the Week honors for her work. We hadn’t seen anything yet. In leading Georgia to a 69-60 win over Ole Miss, Humphrey scored 32 and pulled down 14 rebounds. Georgia did a good defensive job on the Rebel guards, outrebounded them in the second half, and cut down on turnovers. If Georgia had been able to hit a few three-pointers, the job would have been a lot easier. Georgia attempted a lot of field goals in the first half – nearly half their total shot attempts – but few fell. After Humphrey hit two quick three-pointers to start the game, they went cold. Coach Landers said afterwards that many of those shots were rushed.

It wasn’t until Megan Darrah hit three huge shots from outside in the second half that things loosened up. Humphrey was good enough in the first half, but once Darrah began to draw defensive attention, Humphrey had a lot more room to operate down the stretch. Strong defense kept Ole Miss from answering, and they were in the tough spot of trying to counter Humphrey’s high percentage inside shots with lower-percentage jump shots. After struggling over the past month, it was great to see Darrah contribute in a big way and find some of the form she had earlier in the season and all of last year.

Georgia made a good statement by taking care of Vandy and Ole Miss, and they made a strong case for being no worse than the third-best team in the conference. Though there’s still more than half of the SEC schedule left, it’s not too early to start thinking about the standings. Because of SEC scheduling quirks, Georgia will have to face Tennessee and LSU twice this year. Ole Miss plays LSU, Tennessee, Georgia, and Vanderbilt only once. With that in mind, Ole Miss should be favored in all of its remaining games except the game at Tennessee. They’ve already beaten LSU and Vanderbilt. Even if they lose at Tennessee, they’ll still only have two conference losses with no games left to play against ranked SEC teams. What that means is that Georgia, already with two conference losses and games still left against LSU and Tennessee, is going to need to take care of their own business and get some help to get a top 3 seed in the SEC Tournament. Next Thursday’s game against LSU in Athens will be tremendously important in terms of the #2-#4 spots in the SEC standings. First things first, though – let’s get a win Sunday and finish a season sweep of Florida.

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