Lady Dawgs aim to get back to Final Four

ATHENS – When Tasha Humphrey signed with Georgia's women's basketball team in 2004, she seemed just the kind of player around whom a championship team could be built.

Humphrey starts her senior season at 6:30 p.m. today when Richmond, which is coached by longtime Lady Bulldogs assistant Michael Shafer, comes to Stegeman Coliseum for the season's first game, and Georgia still has no titles to show for the Humphrey era.

Humphrey, a 6-foot-3 forward, was named first-team All-SEC last year but had the lowest scoring and rebounding numbers of her career (16.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game).

"I don't think that Tasha had a great junior year," head coach Andy Landers said. "I don't think she thinks she had a great junior year."

Landers expects more from Humphrey this year but has made it clear that Humphrey's supporting cast will be just as crucial to any success the team has. Georgia, which was ranked No. 9 in the preseason, finished 27-7 and second in the SEC last year behind eventual national champion Tennessee. The Lady Bulldogs season ended with a 78-65 loss to Purdue in the NCAA's Sweet 16.

Playing alongside Humphrey in the post will be 6-5 sophomore Angel Robinson, who averaged eight points and 5.4 rebounds coming off the bench last year.

"Angel has a different level of confidence but she also has a different level of determination," Landers said. "I don't want to paint it too colorful at this point because I think both of those can and will get better, but she has a different outlook than she did year ago. It's something we want to continue to develop and take to the highest level we can."

Sophomore Ashley Houts returns to the point guard spot after winning SEC freshman of the year honors last year.

"She is capable of giving you a lot, which she proved last year with just a stellar season," Landers said.

Georgia probably will start senior Megan Darrah, who has played out of position at the power forward spot most of her career, and sophomore Christy Marshall, the SEC's co-sixth woman of the year last season, on the wing. However, Tennessee transfer Lindsey Moss is an option there, too.

One of those three will be expected to replace some of the outside shooting lost with the departure of sharpshooter Cori Chambers, who averaged 12.7 points per game last year.

"I think we're going to be very good at the point; I think we're going to be very good inside," Landers said. "The question marks are on the wings. How well and how quickly can Megan transition into that position? How effective can she be? That may very well be the question of the year for our basketball team: Who's going to shoot the ball well and consistently from the perimeter?"

Last year: 27-7 overall, 11-3 SEC

Head coach: Andy Landers, 29th season (684-215, 766-236 in 32 seasons overall)

Season opener: 6:30 p.m. today, vs. Richmond, Stegeman Coliseum

Returning stars: F Tasha Humphrey (16. ppg, 7.6 rpg), G Ashley Houts (9.4 ppg, 3.6 apg) Fresh faces: G Brittany Carter (nation's No. 21 prospect last year), G Lindsey Moss (sat out last year after transferring from Tennessee)

Outlook: The Lady Bulldogs have the potential to be an elite team this season if Humphrey plays to her capability. Georgia's starting five will match most lineups in the country, and it has more depth than it has had in the last four seasons. The only real question mark is outside shooting, and there are plenty of candidates to fill that role.

The problem for Georgia is it still is in the SEC, where defending national champion Tennessee looks again like the team to beat. They may not win a conference title, but the Lady Bulldogs could be bound for their first Final Four since 1999.

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