Lady Dawgs start NCAAs

ATHENS – Tournament time starts today for Georgia women's basketball team, and that's good news for a group that seems to save its best basketball for March.

The Lady Bulldogs (22-9) take on Rice (24-8) today at 2:15 in Reunion Arena in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Georgia is the No. 6 seed in the Chattanooga Regional, and the Lady Owls are the No. 11 seed. If Georgia wins, it will set up a showdown with second-seeded Texas for the right to go to the Sweet 16.

"No one is even thinking about Texas," point guard Alexis Kendrick said. "We're really focused on Rice right now."

Maybe it's that kind of attitude that has led this group to excel once the regular season is over. Georgia started the year ranked No. 5 in the country but gradually slipped to its current spot at No. 20. While that smacks of underachieving, the opposite could be true.

Lady Bulldog coach Andy Landers points out that his team's preseason ranking can be attributed mostly to its NCAA Tournament run last year, when Georgia came within two points of a trip to the Final Four.

"That's the impression we left on people," he said.

The impression Georgia left during the regular season was a streaky one, and Landers acknowledged his talented group looked past some of their less-heralded opponents. He hopes his team left trait back in the regular season, and he's seen reason for hope.

"I think that perhaps we've had the best practices that we've had since the first of November," Landers said.

The Lady Dogs are coming off a confidence-building loss to LSU in the SEC Tournament. Georgia was down by just two points with remaining against the team that was ranked No. 1 most of the regular season.

"Maybe it did take the SEC Tournament for us to realize, ‘Hey, we've played around all season long and kind of wasted time," Kendrick said.

Freshman Tasha Humphrey, the nation's co-freshman of the year, said she's seen more smiles in the gym in the last two weeks than she can remember all season.

"There's a new buzz in the gym," she said. "There's that new focus and a new killer mentality that we've lacked at times in the season and what better time to get that than going into the NCAAs."

Senior Katie Frye added, "I definitely think we've had some disappointments along the year, but also we've played pretty good at points. We know what we're capable of. We feel like if we play our best basketball, we can beat anybody in the country."

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