UM hosts Georgia to open SEC season tonight

The Ole Miss Lady Rebels and the Georgia Lady Bulldogs tipoff their SEC seasons tonight in Oxford at 7.

The Ole Miss Lady Rebels have had some success against the Georgia Lady Bulldogs recently – at home, that is.

During the first two seasons of the Carol Ross era of Ole Miss women's basketball, the Lady Rebels beat Georgia both times they played in Oxford but lost both times they met in Athens.

Last season's home game for Ole Miss was a 72-61 win, while in Ross' first year as UM head coach, the Lady Rebs won a 90-79 double-overtime thriller when they ran away from the competition in the second extra period.

But today at 7 p.m. in Tad Smith Coliseum it's a new game in this fiercely-contested series. Ole Miss, ranked as high as 24th nationally in December, fell from the rankings after a loss to Miami (Fla.) in the finals of the Hurricane Classic. The Bulldogs are currently ranked 17th and are winners in seven of their last eight games.

Ole Miss is 10-3, while Georgia is 9-3. Ross expects another battle tonight as both teams open Southeastern Conference action for 2005-06.

"Georgia's like they always are, a very talented team," Ross said. "They're a very good team, a good rebounding team, a good defensive team. They use their quick guards to compliment their powerful All-American (sophomore) forward Tasha Humphrey."

Ole Miss junior guard Armintie Price says nobody needs to remind her it's conference time. She's been looking forward to it for a while.

"I'm ready. I've been ready," said Price, who is featured in a segment in the latest edition of SLAM magazine, a national basketball publication. "I think our coaches have done a good job getting us ready for conference play. Our tough non-conference schedule really tested us. It made us stronger."

Price knows Georgia will be a huge challenge again for Ole Miss.

"Georgia's a great team," Price said. "They have great guards. Tasha Humphrey (UGA's leading scorer at 18.9 points per game and leading rebounder at 8.8 per contest) is a great player. I think of Georgia as being the full package. We've got to play well and give great effort. We want to get off to a great start in conference play."

Price leads UM with 18.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Price, already a two-time 2005-06 SEC Player of the Week, has scored in double figures in 12-of-13 games this season and tied a season-high with 24 points versus Miami.

Senior guard Ashley Johnson is averaging 13.5 points per game and has made 23-of-73 shots from beyond the 3-point arc. Johnson has been the leading scorer for Ole Miss in four games this season, posting a season-high 22 in the win over Rutgers.

Junior guard Ashley Awkward has been getting the nod at the point guard position for Ole Miss. Awkward is leading the team in assists with 2.5 per game. She also drops in 9.9 points and is second on the team with 1.6 steals per game.

Sophomore forward Carla Bartee is Ole Miss' top player off the bench with 8.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per outing. Bartee posted her first double-double as a Lady Rebel with 15 points and 10 rebounds versus Louisiana Tech. She has also knocked down 17 treys on the season.

Tonight's matchup pits two veteran SEC head coaches. Ross is in her third season at Ole Miss and spent 12 seasons as head coach at Florida.

Andy Landers is in his 26th season at Georgia. To put that into even more perspective, when Ross played for the Lady Rebels, Landers was already the head coach at Georgia.

Ross says she hopes the Lady Rebels are ready for the 14-game war that is the SEC season.

"In this league if you're not ready," she said, "there will always be a team ready to make sure you know that. So it's here and we'll see."

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