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Post Final week of regular season starts in Knoxville for Lady Dogs

Monday February 21, 2011

You don’t need much build-up for tonight’s game other than mentioning the teams: Georgia and Tennessee. The SEC’s most successful women’s basketball programs meet late in the year, and for the first time in a while it’s a battle among the top two teams in the standings. Georgia knocked off UT in Athens last year in their first win over Tennessee since 2004. Things will be tougher as they always are in Knoxville, but no visiting program has won more on that court than Georgia.

Tennessee’s perfect conference mark means that first place is all but out of reach for Georgia, but a win over the Lady Vols could clinch a first-round SEC Tournament bye for Georgia and move within a game of locking down second place. Thanks to Kentucky’s win at Vanderbilt on Sunday, the Lady Dogs enjoy a two-game lead on the rest of the field for second place in the SEC. They lose the tiebreaker to Vandy, so they’ll still need to win two of their final three games to clinch second place outright. After tonight’s game in Knoxville, Georgia closes out the regular season with a home date against Auburn on Thursday and then a rematch with Florida in Gainesville on Sunday.

Georgia comes into the game winners of four of their last five. Tennessee hasn’t lost since December 14th, but they’ve had a few close calls recently against Kentucky and Vanderbilt. If Tennessee has a weakness, it’s been slow starts and poor shooting. What Georgia and any other opponent has to watch out for is relentless defensive pressure and dominant rebounding. Even if Tennessee’s shots aren’t falling, they can create offense off of turnovers, and they’ll create second and third chances for themselves.

Georgia’s biggest job will be on the glass, and that won’t be easy against a team 4th in the nation in rebounding margin. Tennessee has good size up front, and that could be a problem for Georgia’s undersized frontcourt. Tamika Willis, at 6’2″, might be called into action against a lineup that features the 6’6″ Kelley Cain along with several other players 6’2″ or taller.

The Lady Dogs had perhaps their most complete effort of the season last Thursday against Kentucky. Suffocating defense kept the Wildcats from getting into what they do well on offense, and the Georgia offense was extremely effective breaking down the UK press. They’ll need another strong performance on defense at Tennessee. We can expect a good bit of zone to try to counter Tennessee’s size, so perimeter defense will be key. As good as Tennessee is at interior defense, Georgia’s going to have to have their jumpshots falling. They’re going to need big nights from Miller, Mitchell, and Armstrong on the wings to loosen things up inside.

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