'Great' SEC Start

Certain wins are bigger than others, no matter what some may say. Ole Miss beat Georgia 62-54 in women's basketball Thursday night, and it was a biggie.

Renee Ladner, her team now 12-4 overall and off to a 1-0 start in Southeastern Conference play, didn't hesitate to express how she felt about things afterward.

"Great win. Great way to start the SEC season. Great effort on defense. We beat a great Georgia team. I keep using that word great, but that's how I feel at this moment."

Needless to say, "great" is how many things went for Ole Miss against the visitors from Athens. And the victory was great for some other reasons she didn't mention.

You see, Georgia is the second-winningest women's basketball program all-time in the SEC to top-winner Tennessee. Andy Landers, the savvy veteran in his 30th season as head coach of the Bulldogs, is always a tough out.

Georgia is one of those teams that if you can beat the Bulldogs, then you've accomplished something. For it to come in the league opener is quite the tone-setter for any team.

This Ole Miss team, with a sparkling non-conference record, needed this win to keep pace for a potential NCAA Tournament bid, although that is weeks and many difficult games away.

"I asked this team for the last two days to do several things," Ladner said. "I asked them to find a way to get to the free throw line, and we did that (13-of-18). I asked them to try to out-rebound Georgia, and we did that by a mere one. (45-to-44). And I asked them to defend, and we did that. In the big scheme of things, it appears the gameplan worked."

Indeed it did. Neither team shot it well. Ole Miss shot 32 percent for the game. Georgia 31 percent. Ole Miss shot 25 3-pointers and made just seven. The Bulldogs were 6-of-14 from outside the arc.

It was a physical game throughout, and Ole Miss built on a 30-28 halftime advantage. When Rebel senior center Shawn Goff was called for her fourth foul with just under 13 minutes to go in the game, the Rebs seemed to be in a bit of a fix.

Not only did Goff, who sat for a while, play 11 minutes in the second half, she never picked up her fifth personal, scoring eight points with four rebounds and four blocks in the contest.

Still others pitched in at the post and inside for Ole Miss and made a difference.

"We had big people come off the bench, big people step up and make big shots at big times," Ladner said.

Like Kayla Holloway, a freshman center who had six points and eight boards in this one. And freshman Nikki Byrd, a freshman center who had five points and nine boards.

Two freshmen taking care of things on the glass. Gotta like that for now and for the future.

There were others. Two not mentioned yet were the leading scorers for the Rebels. Junior guard Bianca Thomas blazed the nets for 19 points, while junior point guard Shantell Black had 12 points and five assists.

Black, a Georgia native, had 14 points and eight rebounds against these same Bulldogs last season.

"They make me step up my game a little bit, or maybe I step up my game being from Georgia," Black said.

Landers' Georgia ballclub doesn't have quite the record it normally does at this point, now at 9-6. Still it was a tough matchup as an SEC opener for the Rebels.

A home victory in SEC play was just what Ladner and company wanted and needed in this one.

"This is a great start for us," said Ladner, who admitted she had even peeked a bit at some Mississippi State tape in preparation for game two of the SEC season on Sunday afternoon in Starkville. "A great start."

Certainly it was that.

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