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Post Lady Dogs blow past Iowa State

Tuesday March 20, 2007

After Saturday’s shaky win over Belmont, Georgia coach Andy Landers challenged the leadership on his team, particularly among the upperclassmen. He went so far as to say that he would assume the leadership of the team and that everyone could decide whether or not they would follow him.

After responding with a 76-56 second round win over Iowa State last night, it looks as if some upperclassmen took that challenge personally. Cori Chambers scored 18 first half points, and Tasha Humphrey finished with a game-high 21 points to lead the way for Georgia. The Lady Dogs steamrolled Iowa State in much the same fashion that Georgia had been humbled by Vanderbilt over two weeks ago. Ashley Houts started the game by missing a three-pointer, but that would be only one of two missed Georgia shots in the first nine minutes of the game. Before fans could get comfortable, Georgia was up 29-4, and they led 51-27 at halftime.

After that start, the only question that remained was whether the Lady Dogs could keep up the intensity and hold off the inevitable Cyclone charge. The pivotal first four minutes of the second half passed without Georgia ceding any ground. They eventually led by as many as 32 points. Iowa State went on a run to come within as few as 17 points, and Georgia’s offense finally sputtered with only four points from the 16:00 through the 6:00 mark in the second half. Georgia then turned to Tasha Humphrey to finish the deal. Humphrey scored nine points in the final six minutes to keep Iowa State safely at arm’s length.

Though the second half slowdown meant that Georgia shot under 45% overall, they were still efficient. They turned the ball over only six times. They got good shots created within the offense; 20 of their 29 field goals were assisted.

They were equally effective on defense. All-Big 12 first teamer Lyndsey Medders was held to 11 points and never got on a roll. Georgia held the Cyclones to under 35% shooting and under 30% from the arc. The Lady Dogs were quick to get into passing lanes and forced eight steals and 15 turnovers. They were also menacing inside with five blocks.

Georgia showed what can happen when they turn it on and play well. But we’ve seen that before during this season, and it’s the upside of the pattern Coach Landers has talked about for some time. When things are going well, they go well and everyone steps it up. It’s when things get difficult that someone rarely comes through to carry the team. It was a bit troublesome seeing the score stuck between 59 and 63 for a good ten minutes last night, but Humphrey finally put a stop to that.

The Lady Dogs advance to their fifth consecutive Sweet Sixteen round and their seventeenth Sweet Sixteen in 24 trips to the NCAA Tournament. They will face Purdue who easily handled Georgia Tech in the second round. Purdue is the #2 seed and Big 10 tournament champion. They are led by Player of the Year finalist Katie Gearlds at guard and forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton. The Lady Dogs and the Boilermakers have met just once before – a 66-64 Georgia win in the 2004 Sweet Sixteen. Alexis Kendrick hit a jumper with five seconds left to give Georgia the win over the higher-seeded Boilermakers. That win over Purdue was Georgia’s most recent win in the Sweet Sixteen round; they’ve since lost to Duke and UConn.

Two players from each team were involved in that 2004 game. Purdue’s Gearlds had 8 points, and Erin Lawless scored 12 points and pulled down four rebounds off the bench. For Georgia, Cori Chambers scored 5 points in a reserve role, and Janese Hardrick had a game-high 17 points on 7-12 shooting as a freshman. Another big night from Hardrick would go a long way towards advancing Georgia to the Elite Eight, but her role on defense might be as important against Purdue’s solid offense.

The Lady Dogs will play Purdue on Sunday, and the Regional Final would take place on Tuesday if Georgia can advance. Times are still TBA, and I’ll post them as we find out. Tickets for the Dallas Regional are on sale through the UGA ticket office.

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