Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Bring on the Heels

Tuesday March 25, 2008

If the Lady Dogs are going to make their fifth straight Sweet 16 appearance, it’s going to take one of the bigger upsets of this season. The #8 seed Lady Dogs play second-seeded North Carolina at 9:30 tonight on ESPN2 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Georgia survived a back-and-forth opening round game with Iowa. Though Georgia got some key outside shots from Megan Darrah, it was the interior game and specifically Angel Robinson that overcame Iowa’s success from the perimeter.

If you’ve watched the UNC men this year, their women play the same style. They love to push and get out in transition. Team speed is superior at almost every position. They will gladly concede turnovers if it means that they’re playing on the edge of going too fast.

Speed hasn’t been a hallmark of this Georgia team, and that’s quite a change from the days in the not-too-distant past when Sherill Baker’s disruptive speed gave opposing point guards headaches. Ashley Houts has many great attributes, the least of which is the ice water in her veins that helped her sink 100% of her free throws in the final minute of the Iowa game despite playing 40 minutes, but she had trouble keeping up with Iowa’s short but quick Kristi Smith.

Carolina’s Cetera DeGraffenreid is one of the best newcomers on the national scene this year, and some claim that she is even faster than the hyperactive Ivory Latta was. If Houts struggled with Iowa’s Smith even in the halfcourt game, DeGraffenreid will be twice as tough to defend. Similarly, Rashanda McCants will present a defensive challenge on the wing for Megan Darrah. McCants is an extremely aggressive and active player on offense who can drive to the basket.

The matchup inside will be very interesting. Tasha Humphrey and Erlana Larkins are nearly clones. Humphrey might have a little more range and Larkins might have a little more control of her game, but both are tough, physical forwards. Angel Robinson and LaToya Pringle also seem to match up well. Both are described as "finesse" players at center, but Robinson has a height advantage while Pringle probably has better leaping ability.

If Carolina has one weakness, it’s from the perimeter. Though the Heels have several players who could knock down the occasional outside shot, they average well under 30% as a team. The ideal defense is to slow them down inside with a zone and force the game to the perimeter, but their transition offense and ability to penetrate means that opponents are rarely able to turn Carolina into a jumpshooting team.

Andy Landers sounds up for the challenge, and he does have a 5-0 career mark against North Carolina. But none of those games were against these kinds of odds. If the Tasha Humphrey era at Georgia is going to last beyond tonight, Georgia’s star and the rest of her teammates are going to have to play their best basketball of the season.

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