No. 16 Georgia Too Much For Lady'Backs

ATHENS, Ga. -- Just after No. 16 Georgia polished off a 78-57 win over Arkansas in the women's Southeastern Conference opener for both teams Thursday night, UA coach Susie Gardner kidded Georgia coach Andy Landers, "It's about time."

Landers, whose 701 previous career wins included none over Gardner in two tries, replied, "I know it. My contract was in the balance."

Too much Tasha Humphrey (24 points, 12 rebounds) inside and outstanding play by Georgia guards Cori Chambers (17 points) and Alexis Kendrick (14 points) assured Landers' job security for the new year.

Arkansas (9-2) will try to regroup at Cincinnati on Sunday.

Humphrey, a sturdy 6-foot-3 freshman, helped the Lady Bulldogs (10-3) rush to early leads of 12-0 and 22-5, and it was never a contest after that.

"Humphrey is a freshman impact player," Gardner said. "Her intensity and passion are beyond a freshman's, and she plays smart."

Landers agreed with Gardner, his former sharpshooter on two Final Four teams.

"An example is that Tasha was able to stop fouling when she got four fouls and still play effectively," Landers said.

By the time Humphrey fouled out, only 1 minute, 49 seconds remained and Georgia led 76-51.

Gardner tried a man-to-man defense, a 2-3 zone and a half-court trap, but Georgia solved all three defenses in the first half, when the Lady Bulldogs took a 36-15 lead.

"We were sharp," Landers said. "Our players did a good job of finding Humphrey in the first seven minutes, and then Cori knocked down a couple of 3-pointers when Arkansas went to a zone."

Mainly, though, Georgia beat Arkansas by causing more turnovers (20) than it committed (16); by outrebounding the Lady'Backs 44-36 and by playing a faster tempo than Arkansas had seen previously this season.

"We've got to learn from this and take our practice to the next level," Gardner said. "Tonight, Georgia looked like the team they are. We kept battling the whole game, but in the first half we had as many turnovers (15) as we did points."

Danielle Allen, who tied Ruby Vaden with 12 points to lead Arkansas, bobbled a pass or two early and went to the bench after just 1:27 of play.

"I wasn't ready to play," Allen said. "It was my first SEC start and I had some nerves. Coach just told me to calm down and get my head straight."

Kristin Peoples, Arkansas' point guard, shot 0-of-5 from the field, while her running mate, Rochelle Vaughn, went 0-of-6.

"We got off to a bad start shooting," Peoples said. "Our defense was OK, but we may have had a little nerves."

Although the Lady'Backs made just 5-of-23 shots in the first half, Kendrick paid them a compliment afterwards.

"Arkansas to me is a complete team," Kendrick said. "They have a great post player in Vaden, and tremendous quickness on the perimeter. They can really drive, so tonight we just communicated very well on defense and kept them from driving."

Because Arkansas likes post-to-post offense, Kendrick said, "Our posts tried to meet them early and bump up a little bit."

The Lady'Backs shot 55.6 percent in the second half, with just five turnovers, but by that time Georgia had lost a bit of focus on defense.

Landers, who has not allowed his team to use its locker room in the past three weeks, said he would continue that policy.

"It's not about winning and losing," he said. "It's about a culture that young players grow up in today. They need a greater appreciation of what the 'G' on our uniform has represented for the last 26 years --getting up and down the floor with passion. They're not bad kids. They're just typical kids in today's culture."

Chambers, an articulate, self-assured sophomore from Elmsford, N.Y., took the locker-room lockout in stride.

"We just need shoes and a ball," she said. "There are a lot bigger things than getting our room back. We're done with the down part of the season; we're only going up now. We don't want to lose any more games."

Georgia won't lose many if Humphrey stays focused.

"Tonight we used our size advantage," Humphrey said. "Arkansas has good quickness, but we used our size to get a good seal inside."

Humphrey said she had to work harder when the 6-3 Vaden entered the game. But Vaden got two quick fouls and played just five minutes in the first half.

"We were trying to come back with defense, and Ruby isn't our strongest defender in the middle of the half-court trap," Gardner said.

After all the postgame interviews, Landers hugged Gardner and said, "Y'all are good. Vaughn had an off game tonight, but defense is going to take you a long way."

Vaughn's little sister, freshman Brittney Vaughn (4-of-6), had some nice moments while scoring 10 points in 11 minutes for Arkansas.

Gardner had said Brittney Vaughn might play well against Georgia because of her great quickness.

Sherrill Baker complemented Chambers and Kendrick with 13 points at guard for Georgia.

Landers, who reminds his players that soldiers are sleeping in foxholes while basketball players have opportunities in college, also demonstrated his old-school ways by wearing a pair of loafers he hopes to have for 12 years.

"That's how long my last pair lasted," he said. "I had them re-soled and re-heeled."

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