The Lady Dogs opened up a tight game midway through the second half for a 70-50 win over Montana in their NCAA Tournament opening game on Saturday. Georgia squandered an early lead and Montana fought back to within two points, but a decisive run with about 13 minutes left put the game out of reach. Tight Georgia defense began to wear on the 13th-seeded Lady Griz who scored just 14 points over the final 15:53 of the game.
We know by now that Georgia’s not going to light up the scoreboard, so they’ll go as far as defense will carry them in the tournament. At its best, Georgia’s defense both disrupts the opponent’s offense and creates chances to score in transition. That combination was on display during the pivotal second half stretch against Montana. Georgia held Montana to under 30% shooting and forced 17 turnovers while recording 8 blocks and 7 steals.
Georgia’s halfcourt offense wasn’t bad – they assisted on 15 of 28 made shots, and they only turned it over 11 times. They shot 46% from the floor – better than their typical 40%. The only thing that held them back was missed shots – Tiaria Griffin was just 1-of-7 in her first NCAA Tournament game, and Jasmine James was 4-of-12. Other players stepped up to help. Jasmine Hassell had her usual efficient performances with a game-high 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Shacobia Barbee had an impressive tournament debut with 13 points and a team-high 7 rebounds. Georgia’s depth proved key: bench players scored 19 points led by Erika Ford’s 8. Tameka Willis added four points and four rebounds in just 9 minutes of playing time.
The Lady Dogs advance to the Round of 32 where they’ll play fifth-seeded Iowa State. On one hand, it’s a good thing to be facing Iowa State. Host team Gonzaga has been a giant-killer in recent seasons, and they pushed Iowa State in the opening round. With the hosts out of it, there should be a relatively sparse and neutral crowd. The bad news of course is that Georgia will face a very capable and balanced opponent. Iowa State has good height, and most players aren’t afraid to step out for a perimeter shot. They shot over 50% in their opener and hit nine three-pointers.
One key in this second round game will be rebounding. Georgia was outrebounded by Montana, and the Lady Dogs gave up 17 offensive boards. Iowa State controlled the glass against Gonzaga with 39 rebounds. Georgia will need to emphasize rebounding for two big reasons: first, second-chance opportunities for a team that shoots as well as Iowa State almost guarantees that the possession will result in points. Second, Georgia looks to push for transition chances off of defensive rebounds. Those opportunities to run can mean valuable points for a team that can struggle at times in its halfcourt offense. Iowa State doesn’t go very deep, so any chance to push the tempo could pay dividends later.
Georgia’s bid to return to the Sweet 16 should tip off from Spokane, Wash. at about 9:50 p.m. ET on ESPN2/WatchESPN.