Landers' ladies take to the NCAA floor

ATHENS – Finally, this afternoon, Georgia has a chance to expunge its last game.

The last time the Lady Bulldogs took the floor, they were thrashed 81-56 by Vanderbilt in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. One more performance like that will mean the end of their season.

Georgia, the No. 3 seed in the Dallas Region of the women's NCAA Tournament, takes on No. 14 seed Belmont today at 2:30 p.m. in Williams Arena in Minneapolis in the tournament's first round. The game will be televised by ESPN.

"The only real cleansing is going out and beating somebody," head coach Andy Landers said.

"That'll kind of snap me back. I don't get over (losses) very well. We have to beat somebody for me to feel good again."

That should be taken care of today, but Belmont, the champion of the Atlantic Sun, has the one thing that every underdog needs to pull a tournament upset – a great player. Forward Alysha Clark is averaging 17.2 points and 12.7 rebounds this season.

"She's a very athletic, offensive-minded player who can score in close, can score from the high post, is a great offensive rebounder and very, very good in drawing the foul and going to the free throw line and scoring there," Landers said.

Landers drilled defense, defense, defense before his team left Athens for Minneapolis, and the Lady Bulldog players think their most recent game was an aberration.

"I think the SEC tournament was a bit of a fluke," junior Megan Darrah said.

Landers isn't too concerned either, truth be told. With four upperclassmen in the starting lineup and a team that went 25-6 through a season that offered its share of challenges, he feels good about the mental make-up of this group.

"We're a team that, for the most part, has been able to focus," he said. "That makes me feel good about going into the NCAA Tournament. I think as much as anything when you get into the tournament, it's a focus situation. (This season) has been a constant adjustment and development of a basketball team that still hasn't played its best basketball."

Knowing the NCAA Tournament ropes will help, too.

"We have the experience," he said. "This team has been there and succeeded before. They understand things as simple as the schedule and why we have to do things the way that we do it."

Belmont, on the other hand, is in its first tournament after making the jump to Division I basketball all the way from the NAIA in 1997.

"Ten years ago, we were in the NAIA, and we got on a bus and played," head coach Tony Cross said. "The paperwork and procedures here are almost overwhelming. We talked about that this, hopefully, isn't our last time (in the tournament) and the next time, it won't be such a shock with all the procedures."

One potential problem for Georgia is nagging illness and injury. Starters Darrah and Cori Chambers are still bothered by injuries suffered in the final week of the season. Darrah tore a ligament in the thumb on her shooting hand, and Chambers has an undetermined toe ache on her left foot.

"I've got a pill, and it seems to be helping pretty good," Darrah said with a laugh.

Chambers is Georgia's second-leading scorer at 12.9 points per game.

Backup center Rebecca Rowsey will be very limited throughout the tournament due to the effects of mononucleosis, Landers said.

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