Lady Dawgs Gunning for Final 4

Shooters, the players who can drive a stake into an opponent, always think their shot is going in. Or, at least, they always say that after it has gone in.

Georgia freshman Janese Hardrick is becoming one of those players, but she hasn't learned that lesson yet. The 5-foot-6 guard from Powder Springs hit the Lady Bulldogs' biggest shot of the season Saturday night to help Georgia past Purdue 66-64 and into today's Elite Eight of the NCAA Women's Basketball Championships.

Hardrick committed a technical foul with 1:53 left in the game, which was played in Seattle and ended at 1:40 a.m. Eastern time on Sunday, that allowed the Boilermakers to take a 64-61 lead, but she hit a 24-foot 3-pointer with 40 seconds remaining to tie the score 64-64.

Sophomore guard Alexis Kendrick then hit the game-winner with 5.4 seconds remaining, but Hardrick's shot was the key. Did it feel good when it left her hands?

"No," she said. "I wasn't going to shoot it because (6-foot-1 Katie) Gearlds was on me. I didn't think I could get it over her. I didn't think I was far enough away from her. I kind of formed my mouth to say, 'Oh, no.' When it went in, I was just shocked. It took me from the 3-point line until halfcourt to realize it went in."

Hardrick was halfway to halfcourt when she took the shot, although she proved she wasn't out of her range. Hardrick and center Christi Thomas often goof off and shoot long 3-pointers before practices, she said.

"We call it J.J. Redick," said Hardrick, referring to the Duke men's 3-point ace. "(Thomas) plays around with me. When I hit one, she'll be like, 'J.J. Redick.'

"It's a shot you usually don't see in women's basketball."

It's also the shot that set up No. 3 seed Georgia's game today against fourth-seeded LSU for the West Regional title. The Lady Tigers blew out top seed Texas 71-55 on Saturday in Seattle.

Georgia beat LSU 80-74 in Athens on Jan. 25. The two teams meet again at 9 p.m. in the Bank of America Arena for the right to go to the Final Four.

Georgia coach Andy Landers can only hope he gets another shining effort out of Hardrick, who led Georgia with 17 points against Purdue. It's the kind of game he's been trying to coax out of her for two weeks.

Several times in that span he has publicly called her out for resting on her laurels after a midseason stretch in which she scored 18, 25 and then 30 points consecutively. (The 25 came against LSU.)

"He keeps going back to those games because I played my heart out those games," Hardrick said. "You can't help but follow his direction."

Landers has been chiding Hardrick in private, too. He took blame for her technical against Purdue because he urged her to be more aggressive on defense during a timeout. When the Lady Bulldogs returned to the floor, Hardrick was whistled for her technical for slapping the ball while a Boilermaker was trying to throw it inbounds.

"We can both take blame for it," Hardrick said.

As long as she gets all the credit for the shot.


No. 16 Georgia (No. 3 seed) vs. No. 17 LSU (No. 4 seed)

9 p.m./Bank of America Arena (10,000), Seattle
Broadcast: ESPN
Records: Georgia 25-9, LSU 26-7
Coaches: Georgia -- Andy Landers (610-188, 25th season), LSU -- Sue Gunter (441-220, 22nd season)
LSU starters: G Temeka Johnson, 5-3, Sr. (12.8 ppg, 8.3 apg); G Doneeka Hodges, 5-9, Sr. (14.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg); G Seimone Augustus, 6-1, So. (19.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg); F Wendlyn Jones, 6-1, So. (6.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg); F Hanna
Biernacka, 6-1, Fr. (4.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg).
Georgia starters: G Alexis Kendrick, 5-7, So. (9.4 ppg, 4.5 apg); G Sherrill Baker, 5-8, So. (11.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg); G Janese Hardrick, 5-6,
Fr. (10.5 ppg, 3 rpg); F Rebecca Rowsey, 6-3, Fr. (2.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg); C Christi Thomas, 6-5, Sr. (13.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg).
Outlook: Although Sue Gunter is still officially LSU's head coach, she has turned over the coaching to longtime assitant Pokey Chatman. Gunter coached the Lady Tigers when they visited Athens in January but soon left the bench due to her failing health. She turned the reins over to Chatman, a former LSU All-American, on Feb. 19, and the Lady Tigers are 6-3 since. ... When Georgia and LSU met Jan. 25 in Athens, Janese Hardrick scored 25 points and the Lady Bulldogs won 80-74. However, Hardrick doesn't think that counts for much. "I don't think they're the team we beat earlier in the season," she said. ... This is the first time Georgia and LSU have met in the NCAA tournament. ... What was Georgia's reaction when Purdue senior Erika Valek had an uncontested layup that would have tied Saturday's game at the end of regulation? "Everyone stopped breathing when she shot that layup," Hardrick said. Valek pushed the shot long, giving Georgia a chance to reach its sixth Final Four. "Probably no one thought we'd get to the Elite Eight so we're here to prove a point," Hardrick said.

Next up: Winner vs. winner of Midwest Regional, Sunday, New Orleans

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