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Post Lady Dogs need overtime to hold off Kentucky

Friday February 16, 2007

Last night’s Lady Dogs game at Kentucky was every bit the tough test I thought it might be. Georgia finally prevailed 82-72 in overtime with an outburst of 16 points in those five extra minutes. Kentucky played with the urgency and emotion that you would expect from a team who put the "must-win" label on the game. Georgia had Kentucky down by twelve in the first half and eleven in the second half, but the Wildcats kept fighting back. Other recent Georgia teams might not have survived this fierce of an upset bid – Georgia had in fact lost in Lexington two years ago – but this team was able to stay just far enough out in front to hold off the late challenge.

Tasha Humphrey was spectacular again with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Five Lady Dog players scored in double-figures and Ashley Houts added nine points. Georgia got to the line 29 times and hit 24 of them. Janese Hardrick scored six points in overtime after some costly mistakes towards the end of regulation.

Kentucky stayed in the game with one of their better perfomances of the year behind the arc. Both teams shot over 40% from outside. That isn’t so impressive for a Georgia team with the second-best percentage behind the arc in the SEC, but Kentucky was shooting under 30% from outside. Samantha Mahoney scored 23 points, including 12 from behind the arc, and several other Wildcat players came up with big outside shots. Georgia played to the scouting report and favored a zone defense focused on the inside game over tight perimeter defense. Kentucky made the most of those open looks and also got some baskets from the high post. Though Georgia outrebounded Kentucky, a lapse on the defensive glass helped Kentucky get back in the game. With Georgia up by eleven in the second half, Kentucky scored off of offensive rebounds on consecutive possessions to cut the lead to seven and started a run that would reduce Georgia’s lead to one.

I was a bit surprised that Georgia didn’t show much of the full-court pressure that had been so successful in the past two games. They forced turnovers on Kentucky’s first two possessions, and the Wildcats are near the bottom of the league in turnover margin, so I thought the potential for effective pressure was there. As it was, Georgia had to play a lot of halfcourt defense, and they only forced 14 Kentucky turnovers. It didn’t help in terms of pressure that Houts, Georgia’s steals leader, had to play the entire second half with four fouls.

The Lady Dogs are now in control of third place in the SEC and could move into second if they continue to win and if Tennessee wins at LSU. Georgia’s remaining games at Auburn and against Arkansas – two teams in the lower half of the conference with a bit less to play for than Kentucky. So the Lady Dogs seem to be in good shape if they can remain focused and driven heading into the tournament in Duluth in two weeks.

The SEC standings are very crowded, and there still could be a lot of movement in tournament seeds over the final week of the regular season. Right now it looks as if just one loss could separate the second seed from the fifth seed, and a very capable Kentucky or Mississippi State team could wind up as Georgia’s quarterfinals opponent.

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