Or maybe it was that the SEC's two premiere women's basketball programs forgot how to score. Either way, Georgia and the Lady Vols went up and down the court – scoring as little as possible for 15 minutes of the second half. In that time the Vols and Dawgs combined to score 18 points – woefully bad offensive production. For six minutes in the second half it totally scoreless. Not good.
But it seemed Tennessee could win with the slow pace – considering the size of their players, and the fact that they had a four-point lead late. It was obvious Georgia would have to score more, but the Lady Dogs' fight when they were not scoring won them this game tonight.
It would have been easy for the Lady Dogs to let Tennessee get too far out in front. But just at the exact moment Georgia needed something to happen right it did – perhaps appropriately with a defensive play. Jasmine James stole a tipped pass, and got the ball to Ashley Houts, who streaked down the floor for an easy two points. And I don't think I can emphasize just how uneasy points were to come by for Georgia Thursday night.
"I knew when I tipped it to JJ that we were going to get a quick score, and that gave us confidence. It felt like there was a lid on the rim for a while there," Houts said.
A lid on the rim for sure – and in more ways than one. Landers' team was struggling to score and they were struggling to score against a team they had not beaten since 2004 – and had not beaten in Athens since 2000. But their fight on the defensive side of the ball kept them in the game when their offense failed them.
"I have said for a long time that selfish players will not play defense," Landers said. "The greatest complement I can pay our team is that this is an unselfish team. We don't put a single player in the game who does not play hard on defense."
Landers addressed some critics – saying that he was confident his squad would score more points by the middle of February. Still, he will not apologize for winning a low-scoring fight against one of the program's top rivals.
"I don't want low scoring games… I really don't," Landers said during his post-game clinic. "But I think we can keep teams in that low-scoring range. If things were to go as planned we would have the other team in the 40s, and we would be in the 60s. But there were no easy points tonight. If it was not for our defense we would not have had a chance tonight."
The most glaring thing about the team in red compared to the team in orange was the physical attributes of the ladies on the floor. The Lady Vols might be the most physically well-equipped team in the nation – they are certainly the most physically looming in the SEC, and probably the biggest, most physical women's team I have ever seen. That caused real problems for the Lady Dogs, and was likely the biggest reason for Georgia struggling to score.
"I am not sure that we have ever played against a team with that kid of height," Landers said. "It creates some problems."
No kidding. The Lady Dogs were towered over. It was difficult to penetrate Tennessee's long and rangy zone, because the ladies of Rocky Top were long and rangy, too. It seemed for every two steps Ashley Houts took – the Vols only had to take one. Houts was given the task of running by Tennessee's Shekinna Stricklen– and she did at times, but she just ran into another towering Vol when she did.
"Whew," Houts said exhaustively, trying to remember just how big Stricklen (listed at 6-2; Housts is listed at 5-6) was. "She was big – a lot bigger than me. They all were. I mean you don't realize how big they are until you get up right next to them. I mean there were times during timeouts where we could tell just how physical it was out there."
As far as the win is concerned – it was a big one – and the Lady Dogs admit that.
"It definitely ranks up there – maybe top of the list," Houts said. "I think this win says a lot about this program, and where we want to go. I think at this point I am most proud of where this team has come."
It has to be considered a big win when it is hard to tell who has a bigger smile on their face after emerging from the post-game locker room – University President Michael Adams or Athletics Director Damon Evans. I think Adams won that competition, but not by much.