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Post Lady Dogs advance to the Sweet 16

Tuesday March 26, 2013

The 2012-2013 Lady Dogs season has been all about a veteran senior class blending with a talented group of freshmen. So with the season on the line it makes sense that a senior and a freshmen combined to make sure that the season would continue. Shacobia Barbee continued her brilliant NCAA Tournament performance with 20 points, and Anne Marie Armstrong added 13 to help 4-seed Georgia win a thrilling 65-60 game against 5-seed Iowa State in the second round of the women’s NCAA Tournament. With the win, Georgia advances to the Sweet 16 for the 20th time in program history.

Things started as close as you’d expect from a 4-5 matchup. Neither team led by more than four points in the first half. The game quickly became about Georgia’s outside shooting versus Iowa State’s size inside. Cyclone forward Anna Prins proved to be a tough matchup on both ends – she was able to shoot over Georgia’s interior defense, and her range extended beyond the arc. On defense Prins was a shotblocking threat that frustrated Georgia forward Jasmine Hassell and held Georgia’s leading scorer without a point in the first half.

With Hassell neutralized, Georgia had no choice but to look outside. Fortunately the shots fell. The Lady Dogs shot under 30% from outside this year, but they drilled eight three-pointers in the first half to stay in the game. Anne Marie Armstrong, despite early foul trouble, went on a personal 8-0 run to turn a four-point deficit into a four-point lead. The teams went to the locker rooms tied at halftime.

Georgia opened the second half with increased intensity on defense and a greater effort to get the ball inside on offense. Though the scoring started slowly, Hassell finally got going around the basket. Georgia’s defense was stifling and held the Cyclones without a basket for the first seven minutes of the half. Georgia didn’t run away with the game, but they started the second half on a 19-5 run that opened up a 51-37 lead with 9 minutes left.

Iowa State didn’t fold and began to close the gap. Georgia suddenly like a team that struggled hitting the outside shot. A pair of Iowa State three-pointers turned a comfortable nine-point Georgia lead into a three-point advantage around the 5-minute mark, and we were set for a tight finish. It ended up being a 19-1 run for the Cyclones, punctuated by Prins’ second three-pointer of the night inside of 3 minutes left that put Iowa State up by 4 and had Georgia reeling.

Desperate for an answer, Georgia turned to its freshmen. Tiaria Griffin drove towards the paint and found Barbee open on the left wing. Barbee calmly drained her third three-pointer of the night to close the gap to one and put an end to Iowa State’s run. Then it was Armstrong’s turn. Anne Marie caused a turnover on the other end and found herself wide open at the top of the key on the secondary break. She nailed the three-pointer to put Georgia back on top. Iowa State answered with their own deep shot to retake the lead, but Armstrong came up big again by handling a tough lob pass and going under the basket for a reverse layup that gave Georgia the lead for good. Iowa State missed their next shot, and Armstrong forced a jump ball on the rebound. With the possession arrow in Georgia’s favor, Iowa State had no choice but to start fouling, and Barbee hit three of four shots at the line. Iowa State didn’t manage another basket, and Georgia sealed the win with a full-court pass to a streaking Jasmine James.

The game was about as exciting as Georgia’s comeback win over FSU two years ago that send the Lady Dogs to their most recent Sweet 16. Georgia had to play outside of their comfort zone on offense and overcome a big size disadvantage in order to win. For the second straight game they won despite a big deficit on the boards, and the cold stretch in the second half nearly cost them. On the whole though the outside shooting was as good as it’s been all year, and they only turned it over 5 times.

The defense was outstanding. They held a team that shoots about 43% well below their average. Though Prins’ size was tough to deal with, no other player was consistently effective. Though Iowa State got back in the game on their run, Georgia’s defense helped to surround that stretch with Georgia spurts of 19-5 and 13-4. The offense in this win was unconventional for this Georgia team, but the defense was typical of what has carried the team this year.

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