Riding a 6-0 start in SEC play, the Lady Dogs have climbed to the #20 spot in this week’s AP poll. That’s as high as the team has been ranked since they were #18 during the first week of the season. The young team with only two upperclassmen had its ups and downs at the tail end of 2010, but they’re gaining confidence and experience in early SEC play. An infusion of freshman guards has given the team a shot of energy, and the Lady Dogs are finding a specific – but fragile – formula for success.
On paper, the Lady Dogs had about as easy of a week as you’ll get in the SEC. Alabama and Mississippi State are a combined 0-13 in conference play. Of course those could have been dangerous games: both opponents were hungry for their first SEC wins, and Georgia’s young squad could have easily overlooked the lesser opponents. We saw some of that in Thursday’s win at Alabama. Georgia built up an 18-point lead, but the homestanding Tide cut it to 6 and made the last few minutes interesting. Sunday’s game was much less in doubt. Georgia led by 20 at halftime, built a 35-point margin, and emptied the bench before winning by 20. It was a far cry from the Mississippi State team that bounced Georgia from last season’s SEC Tournament.
With few interesting storylines from either of those games, the we’ll spotlight the development of a few players:
- Khaalidah Miller has settled nicely into her role. After hitting a minor scoring slump, she’s bounced back with games of 12 and 13 points. Miller has become a serious threat to hit open perimeter shots – a huge need on this team – and she’s one of the best finishers in transition that the team has had in years. As her defense improves, she’s proving to be as big of a shot in the arm to the program as Jasmine James was a year ago.
- With center Jasmine Hassell struggling, Tamika Willis came off the bench to make the most of her playing time this week. Willis looked solid in 18 minutes against Mississippi State scoring 8 points, pulling down 6 rebounds, and blocking 2 shots.
- Freshman guard Ronika Ransford likewise had an impressive Sunday in relief of a starter. Jasmine James re-injured her wrist in morning shootaround and was limited to 11 minutes. Ransford stepped in and posted her first double-double: 12 points and 10 rebounds.
- Anne Marie Armstrong struggled for most of the Alabama game. Her shot lacked confidence, and there were some bad misses during an 0-for-8 start. Andy Landers took the occasion of a second half timeout to focus on Armstrong and her shooting technique. Whatever was said during that timeout worked. Armstrong finished the game hitting 4 of her last 5 shots and tallied 8 points to go along with 8 rebounds. She followed that up with a 6-for-8 performance against Mississippi State and a team-high 17 points. Her size and athleticism makes her able to contribute in several areas – rebounding, steals, and even assists. But with a more consistent and confident shot, she’s a very dangerous player to have out on the court.
The Lady Dogs take their undefeated conference mark back out for consecutive road games. Georgia has already faced South Carolina in Athens. The Lady Dogs built a big lead but had to withstand a furious second half comeback from SC. They’ll be heading to Columbia on Thursday for a rematch with a team that won’t be scared. On Sunday they’ll face LSU in Baton Rouge in a nationally televised game. LSU isn’t as strong as they’ve been, and they’re very young after a lot of turnover in the past few years. But they’re still talented and well-coached, and they’ve had some impressive results against common opponents.