ATHENS, Ga. — The task of attacking Rutgers' full-court pressure defense without a key starting guard might have been enough to knock some teams out of the NCAA tournament.
Georgia, however, has faced similar challenges all season, so when Sherill Baker was lost for the game with 14:41 left to play, the Lady Bulldogs were not fazed.
"The didn't flinch,'' said Coach Andy Landers after Georgia advanced to its 13th Sweet 16 by beating Rutgers 74-64 Monday night.
Forced to utilize its well-practiced art of replacing key starters, Georgia had other players step up for Baker, whose status for Saturday's Midwest Regional semifinal game in Albuquerque, N.M., is uncertain due to a shoulder injury.
Georgia was protecting its biggest lead of the game, 39-27, about five minutes into the second half when Baker suffered what appeared to be a dislocated right shoulder.
"(Georgia's medical staff) said (the shoulder) was back in, so I suppose it was dislocated,'' Landers said.
Georgia, the No. 5 seed in the Midwest, now awaits the winner of tonight's game between No. 1 seed Duke and No. 8 seed Utah. Midwest Regional games in Albuquerque are scheduled for Saturday and Monday, with the winner advancing to the Final Four in Atlanta April 6-8.
Without Baker, who normally shares ball-handling duty with point guard Alexis Kendrick, forward Mary Beth Lycett had to spend time at guard and backup guard Tina Taylor had to play a key role in bringing the ball up the floor against the pressing defense.
"No one on our bench flinched; no one panicked,'' Landers said. "They just stayed the course.''
Said Lycett: "It seems like we've been doing that all year.''
Georgia (21-9) had leading scorer Kara Braxton suspended by Landers for the rest of the season in February. It lost projected starting forward Ebony Felder from December until the start of the NCAA tournament with a knee injury. It had starter Marquita Driskell miss the Southeastern Conference tournament following a fainting spell.
Georgia took only seven scholarship players to the SEC tournament but was at least briefly back to nine players for the NCAA tournament.
Said Landers, managing a joke while still celebrating the win: "We had too many players. We had nine players. We had to cut it back to eight.''
Felder did not start Monday but played a key role, scoring 17 points in only 16 minutes. Christi Thomas, who set a career-high with 31 points in Georgia's first-round win over Charlotte, and Kendrick each added 17 points.
Rutgers (21-8) paid the price for its difficulty defending Thomas and Felder inside and for sticking with its pressing defense even as its foul total mounted. Four Rutgers players fouled out as the Scarlet Knights were called for 27 fouls, compared with Georgia's 10. Georgia outscored Rutgers 29-7 at the foul line.
"I thought it was a strange game,'' said Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer, who was called for a technical foul in the second half for not sending in a replacement after guard Mauri Horton fouled out.
Said Stringer: "I guess we just foul a lot. I'll accept that and go on.''
Chelsea Newton led Rutgers with 19 points before fouling out. Cappie Pondexter, who also fouled out, added 15 points.
When Horton was called for her fifth with 2:20 left to play, Georgia led 60-54. Following the technical foul on Stringer, who after the game insisted she never heard the official announce it was Horton's fifth foul, Kendrick hit four free throws to push the lead to 10 points.