Lady Dawgs focus on winning in NCAAs

ATHENS – When Georgia's women's basketball team begins each season, making the NCAA Tournament is not on its list of goals.

"It's a given," senior guard Sherrill Baker said.

Women's college basketball is playing its 25th NCAA-sanctioned tournament this year, and Georgia is making its 23rd appearance. Only twice in Andy Landers' 26 year has his team failed to make it to the national tournament (1992 and 1994).

"It gets more exciting, and I'll tell you why, the first couple times you do it, there are some nerves involved," Landers said. "Now it's comfortable. Sometimes as you get older, you also grow more appreciative. You don't take things for granted."

Landers has tried to make sure his players don't take the tournament for granted, but it's a tough sell.

"I said, ‘Doggone it. Y'all don't understand,'" he said.

Only two schools – Tennessee and Louisiana Tech -- have been to more NCAA Tournaments than the Lady Bulldogs, and only three teams have played in (65) or won (43) more NCAA games.

"You just automatically think we're going to get there," senior guard Alexis Kendrick said.

Game No. 66 comes today against Marist in Trenton, N.J., in the Bridgeport Regional. The Lady Bulldogs (21-8) are the No. 3 seed, and the Lady Red Foxes (23-6) are the 14th seed. The winner of today's game takes on the winner of the Temple/Harvard game on Tuesday in Trenton.

The third seed has been good to the Lady Bulldogs. They have been seeded third three previous times, and they have made the Final Four on two of those occasions, in 1995 and 1999. If Georgia wins two games in Trenton this week, it will advance to Bridgeport, Conn., where second-seeded Connecticut and top seed Duke likely will await.

"We're not thinking about any game but Marist right now," Baker said.

Georgia is third in the nation in Sweet 16 appearances (15), fourth in Elite Eights (10) and fourth in Final Fours (five).

"If you wanted to stump people with questions about the women's tournament, you could throw a lot of them out there about Georgia," Landers said.

The positive side to that is comfort level. The negative side is heightened expectations.

"I think we've built a situation where, quite honestly, this is what our measure is going to be, the next three weeks," Landers said. "It's kind of like going to a class where the whole semester you have quizzes that count five percent and the other 95 percent is the final."

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