Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Lady Dogs topple FSU to reach 19th Sweet 16

Wednesday March 23, 2011

When you’ve been in every NCAA Tournament save two and have gone deep in most of them, the list of memorable postseason games becomes long, distinguished, and impossible to whittle down to a few favorites. You have triumph – the inspired comeback against Colorado in 1995 that earned Georgia a trip to the Final Four. You have heartbreak – Barbara Turner’s miracle buzzer-beater for UConn in 2006 that erased Georgia’s own potential game-winner. Georgia’s been the upset victim (the 2001 loss to Missouri still stings), but for two straight seasons now they’ve upset a higher seed to advance to the Sweet 16.

Somewhere in there is room for Tuesday night’s 61-59 upset of FSU. It wasn’t especially smooth or aesthetically pleasing from a basketball perspective – right up to the muddled and confusing final seconds. Andy Landers points out why this game stands out. “We got down 10 and dug down in a place we had not before during this game,” he explained. Georgia’s regular season win at Kentucky was about as close as the team had come to this kind of down-to-the-wire win against a Top 20 team. Add in the pressure to come back from a double-figure deficit in the second half with the season in the balance, and Georgia’s push during the final ten minutes was a big step forward for this young team.

Georgia had played with this defensive intensity before: they handled Kentucky in Athens, shut down South Carolina in the SEC tournament, and stymied MTSU in Sunday’s first round game. But few of those opponents tested Georgia the way FSU could. The Noles had legitimate weapons from at least three spots on the floor at any one time. You couldn’t sag a zone against Bravard inside as Ward and her backcourt counterparts made you pay from outside. Your best chance against Bravard wasn’t even defending her; it was denying her. Once she got the ball down low, she scored. Georgia could afford some dry stretches on offense against a more easily guarded opponent like MTSU. Against FSU those dry stretches put Georgia in a hole. Turning up the defensive intensity even more while making the clutch shots and big plays to cut into the lead was a noteworthy feat. Georgia went only seven deep in this game, but somehow they – as Landers put it – dug down to be the stronger team at the end.

Porsha Phillips – with very good reason – is often featured as the player to watch by a broadcast crew, but it wasn’t her best night. As Georgia’s lone senior, it looked for a long time as if her last game would be one to forget, and that’s never the way a senior wants to go out. She struggled with only five points on 2-of-10 shooting, missed two looks at the game-winner, and even her reliable free throw stroke let her down. To her credit, she didn’t let her offense affect her rebounding – just another routine night of double-digit rebounds for Porsha. It would have been sweet redemption had her final shot proved to be the game-winner, but the miss and James’s putback emphasized how much of a team win this was.

  • Armstrong came off the bench to lead the team in scoring. She didn’t just hit the outside shots; she showed off her athleticism with a smart and difficult reverse layup. For the late stages once Hassell fouled out, Armstrong had the tough defensive assignment inside and held her own.
  • Mitchell poured in six points during Georgia’s pivotal run, including the shots that pushed them into the lead for the first time in the second half. She also tied up Brevard on a rebound to cause a jump ball that gave Georgia its final opportunity to win the game.
  • Miller hit a trio of three-pointers that seemed to come right when the team needed them – especially one with 3 minutes left to retake the lead.
  • James didn’t just put in the game-winner; her defensive pressure led to four steals, several transition baskets, and helped cause 19 FSU turnovers.
  • Hassell did yeoman’s work against an incredibly tough and skilled FSU frontcourt. She even managed to add some points of her own.

The challenges only get tougher the deeper you advance, and Georgia will have their hands full on Sunday against #2 seed Texas A&M. A&M has lost five times this year, and three of those came against top-rated Baylor. The winner of this game will likely face Baylor in the regional finals, so there’s a chance that A&M might be peeking ahead to a fourth matchup against their in-state foe.

The Aggies feature one of the most versatile players in the nation in forward Danielle Adams. Adams is the classic “post who can play like a guard”. Though not as tall as Bravard, Adams’ range gives Georgia a different challenge. She can score inside of course but also has the outside game to draw post defenders out and open things up for her teammates closer to the basket. Adams posted 28 points and 11 rebounds in A&M’s second round rout of Rutgers. One player doesn’t make a team this good, and the Aggies will look to the two Sydneys – Carter and Colson – to give Georgia’s guards plenty to think about. Like Georgia, the Aggies don’t go terribly deep – only seven players get more than 10 minutes per game – and only five players average more than 5 PPG. They got just five points off the bench last night against Rutgers, but the starters are plenty good enough.

The matchup also features a rematch of old SEC adversaries. A&M coach Gary Blair coached at Arkansas from 1993-2003 where he built a strong program that reached the 1998 Final Four. A&M convinced him to come resurrect their struggling program, and he’s delivered by making the Aggies a perennial NCAA Tournament team that’s gone as far as the Elite Eight. He’s one of only four coaches to take three programs to the NCAA Tournament.

Georgia vs. Texas A&M in the Sweet 16: Sunday 4:30 p.m. in Dallas, ESPN2

Comments are closed.