First game poses leadership concerns for Georgia Lady Bulldogs

By Lauren Mayo

The Georgia Lady Bulldogs defeated the Presbyterian College Blue Hose 45-30 on Sunday. The season opening win makes the No. 22 ranked Lady Bulldogs 5-0 against the Blue Hose. Though the defeat appeared to be a victory for the fans, the team felt that they demonstrated a lack of communication, ball pressure and efficiency.

“As a team, we just talked about it in the locker room,” said junior Erika Ford, who went 3-for-13 with one block and two steals. “We thought it was [a] pretty ugly win, but a win’s a win. We’ll take it.”

Sophomore Merritt Hempe and junior Krista Donald agreed that the team’s overall performance was lackluster.

“We didn’t have the focus that we needed to start off with,” Donald said.

In comparison to last year, the team now faces new challenges. After losing five seniors, the team was left with one senior, a young team, and an evolving team leadership. Last year, the Elite Eight team turned the Blue Hose inside out with 27 turnovers in their 66-38 victory.

“This is a survival game. Last year was more of a beat down,” coach Andy Landers said. “We got people sitting on the bench that ought to be playing.”

It was reported Nov. 2 that sophomores Marjorie Butler and Tiaria Griffin have been suspended for the first three games of the season for failure to adhere to the standards of the program. Sophomore standout Shacobia Barbee joined Butler and Griffin on the bench because Landers believed she too failed to meet the clear expectations he sets for his roster.

The absence of Butler, Griffin, and Barbee was definitely felt on the hardwood. Without the key players, Landers stated that developed combinations were majorly affected.

“Their teammates let them down by not being able to play today,” Landers said.

With a matchup against the Mercer Bears in less than a week, Landers has not released whether or not Barbee will suit up. Griffin and Butler will not.

The Bulldogs may be cast into a situation they should not be in, but they are in it nonetheless. Now they must focus on fundamentals, communication and creating an identity as a team.

“Last year we knew where we could hang our hats on,” Donald said. “[Now we need to focus on] knowing who we are individually and as a team, because right now we don’t know who’s what.”

All eyes look to veterans

“I would defintely consider myself a leader, especially in the post, just because we don’t have a lot of experience down there,” Hempe said.

Hempe led the team in scoring against Presbyterian with 10 points. Hempe credited Donald and Ford out on the perimeter for exemplifying leadership on the court. The team’s leading returning scorer, senior Khaalidah Miller, set a tone and an example for how things need to be. Miller continued to be the facilitator for Georgia with six assists, after leading the team with 133 assists last year.

The Lady Bulldogs will face the Mercer Bears Thursday at 7:00 p.m. in Stegeman Coliseum.

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UGA vs Presbyterian game notes

By Maria Torres

No Barbee to play with

Shacobia Barbee played in all 35 games last year, starting 34. She did not make in the Bulldogs’ season opener because head coach Andy Landers “did not want her to.” He didn’t elaborate.

“It’s sad. I did have a choice in whether I wanted to do the right thing or whether or not I wanted to compromise the right thing. The right thing is we have expectations of our players. Those are clear. Those are discussed during the recruiting process, often referred to on a daily basis. It boils down to [doing] the right thing. Go to class, go to study hall, do the best you can do, come to practice, be on time, don’t bring an attitude, put in a lot of effort. When you’re out there on the street or in the dorm, behave. Pretty unreasonable isn’t it? People like to take shortcuts, they like to skip classes, every once in a while they like to cop an attitude with somebody they shouldn’t cop an attitude with. Do you do any of that? If you do it here, you’re not going to play.”

But Landers was impressed with the freshmen who stepped up:

“They were cast into a situation that they worked really hard, through 32 practices, to prepare for. And as much as you can prepare in 32 practices with no real experience, they did a really nice job. I thought Sydnei [McCaskill] was a little nervous to begin with but you may have been too if it was your freshman year and the first game and all of sudden you’re out there. But as the game went on, I thought she became more comfortable and she seemed to enjoy being out there, which is what you want. Halle Washington is a warrior. She comes to play, she’s tough, she doesn’t back down. Actually, she had one of the better performances on our entire team if you consider all things, defense, blocked shots, rebounds. She did a nice job. Those two I thought were huge today.”

Khaalidah Miller, the only senior on the team, was also happy with how the freshmen performed.

“The freshmen did really well being under the pressure of knowing that you have to log a lot of minutes in your first game,” she said. “They took it in very well but it’s obvious they have things to work on that we’ll help them get better on.”

Hempe said about freshman Sydnei McCaskill, who only made two of her eight attempted shots (both 3-pointers) in 40 minutes on the court: “I think she has some confidence that she needs to build up because she is running the points. She’s got to be really confident with the ball and calling the plays and know everything really well so she can get us into it. But she did really well.”

Miller also said, about playing without Barbee:

“It was different [without her]. She has a dominant presence when she’s on the floor. We definitely needed her to be out there today but we did what we could with what we had. The people who stepped up did a really good job of doing so.”

Landers on the differences between last year and this year’s game against Presbyterian

“We didn’t have that depth so we couldn’t run the risk. That’s big. Khaalidah played 40, Sydnei played 40, Hempe played 25 only because she got in foul trouble in the first. Donald played 29, Ford played 35. That’s a lot of minutes. So we couldn’t press. We couldn’t turn them over. This was a survival game. Last year, it was more of a beat down.

“As a team, offensive rebounds are important. If you don’t shoot the ball well, you better get the offensive board. Because if you don’t shoot the ball well, you’re creating more opportunities to get to the offensive board by virtue of your misses. So you really better get there. It’s one thing to rebound the ball offensively when you’re shooting the ball well. It’s another thing if you’re going to the boards when you’re missing them. You fail to go when you’re shooting the ball as poorly as we shot it today, you’re missing a heck of an opportunity. They took advantage of that. They took advantage of their misses by retrieving them.”

Landers on the team’s lack of communication

“They don’t talk. You’ve talked more in here than they talked out there today. It’s been part of what we’ve tried to get them to do in practice and they’ve refused. Consequently, they go out there and people set screens. Nobody says anything about it. It’s like me slamming the door as you’re walking through it. I can either yell, ‘stop,’ or let you walk into it. That’s what happened. We’re hitting screens right and left because nobody’s calling them.”

STORIFY: Lady Bulldogs defeat Blue Hose in season opener

The Lady Bulldogs, ranked 24th in preseason rankings, took on the Blue Hose in their home opener at 2 p.m. on November 10th in Stegeman Coliseum. This is the 500th time the Lady Bulldogs have made an appearance in the AP Top 25 Poll. Since last year’s loss in the Elite Eight, the Bulldogs have lost key players Jasmine Hassell, Jasmine James and Ann Marie Armstrong. The Blue Hose has one returning starter, Karlee Taylor, after their 19-12 season last year.

Social media coverage of the game is on Storify.

VIDEO: Coach Landers discusses benched players

By Ben Bolton

The UGA Lady Bulldogs got a win on the basketball court on Sunday. However, they did it without three of their returning players. The team announced last week that Marjorie Butler and Tiaria Griffin have three-game suspensions. In addition, Coach Andy Landers held Shacobia Barbee out of the game Sunday. The team is coming off a year where they advanced all the way to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. As they look to make up the production from seniors on last year’s team, they hope that suspensions won’t hurt their progress.

Georgia women’s basketball scrapes by with 45-30 win in season opener vs. Presbyterian

By Maria Torres

The University of Georgia women’s basketball season got off to a less than stellar start Sunday in Athens, Ga., despite its season-opening 45-30 defeat of Presbyterian College that improved its all-time series record against the Blue Hose to 5-0.

The 24th-ranked Lady Bulldogs (1-0) contained the Blue Hose (0-1) and their three-point threat Karlee Taylor, limiting the senior guard to only five points off one 3-pointer. Last season, Taylor was the second-best in the country in 3-pointers, netting 48.3 percent of her attempts.

“We had [junior guard] Ericka Ford, our quickest defender today, on Taylor,” Georgia head coach Andy Landers said. “She did a good job for the most part of staying with her. She broke down on a few drives and let her get to the rim, but really did a good job of keeping up with her and limiting the looks she had at the basket. That was important because this kid was the second-best three-point shooter in the country.”

Georgia also managed to hold all Presbyterian players to the single digits in scoring by pressuring the offense to miss 80 percent of their attempted shots and collecting 33 defensive rebounds.

But the Lady Bulldogs weren’t happy with their results. Their highest scorer was sophomore forward Merritt Hempe with 10 points, who made six of them off free throws. Junior Krista Donald, also a forward, scored only eight for the second-most points on the team. As a whole, Georgia made 16 of their 50 field goal attempts.

“I could have been more efficient from the field goal,” said Donald, who went 3-for-8. “I don’t know if we can attribute that [team performance] to the defense or just, I don’t know, we need to get in the gym more.”

Coming off a season where they averaged 66.3 points per game and made it to the Elite Eight, they expected a result more akin to a rout. The Bulldogs beat the Blue Hose 66-38 in early November last year, a victory that was part of the 12-game winning streak that opened the first month of the 2012-2013 season.

From the free-throw line last year, the Bulldogs made 66.6 percent of their attempts. On Sunday, they only made 11 of their 25 free throws for a 44 percent total that Landers was not happy about.

“There are two things as a basketball coach that you hope you don’t ever have to comment on — layups and free throws,” Landers said in his somber post-game press conference. “The two easiest shots in basketball and we shoot less than 50 percent. That may be as bad as anybody in the country is shooting free throws right now.”

Georgia entered the second half with a 19-10 lead, which senior guard Khaalidah Miller quickly made 22-10 with a layup and free throw in the first thirty seconds of play. The team was able to get ahead by 19 points late in the second half until a pair of Presbyterian two-point shots knocked the Bulldogs back to a 15-point lead that held until the final buzzer.

Georgia, despite being ahead 3-0 in the first few minutes of the game, found itself trailing 6-5 with a little less than 15 minutes left in the first half. But Miller took a defensive rebound down-court for a layup that gave Georgia a two-point lead after a Hempe free throw tied the game. Presbyterian was never able to get ahead of Georgia again, spending most of the latter part of the game behind by more than nine points following Georgia’s eight-point run.

Miller ended the day with 11 rebounds. The most she ever had in a single game last year was eight in a 70-59 loss to the University of Illinois — but she averaged 2.9 a game.

“Coach has been emphasizing on guards rebounding, so I tried to make a conscious effort to go to the boards as much as possible,” Miller said. “[Sophomore Shacobia Barbee] is really good on the boards, so I just tried to pick up some of the weight.”

Barbee was one of three returning sophomores the Lady Bulldogs had to do without on Sunday. Barbee didn’t play because Landers said he didn’t want her to. Earlier last week, Landers suspended guards Majorie Butler and Tiaria Griffin for three games because they “came up short” of his expectations, according to an Associated Press report.

The Lady Bulldogs had to rely on two different freshmen to make up for it, a plan Landers said worked out but should have been avoided. Guard Sydnei McCaskill played all 40 minutes of the game and went 2-for-8 overall with two 3-pointers in five attempts. Forward Hallee Washington, who logged 20 minutes of play, went 2-for-5 and had three blocks and eight rebounds.

“They survived,” he said. “It probably isn’t fair, really, to evaluate them because they were put into a situation that they should not have been put into. Their teammates let them down by not being able to play today.”

The Lady Bulldogs will continue their five-game homestand against the Mercer Bears on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Leadership roles in the air as Georgia women’s basketball prepares to open season vs. Presbyterian

By Samuel Lack

The No. 24 Georgia women’s basketball team enters its first game of the season against unranked Presbyterian with much to prove after losing some of its key players to graduation last year.

The Lady Bulldogs will host the Blue Hose on Sunday, looking to continue its tradition of hard play and success at home. Last year Georgia was 15-1 at Stegeman Coliseum, including a 66-38 blowout against Presbyterian in the second game of the season.

“It’s exciting,” junior guard Erika Ford said. “It’s an opportunity to go out there and showcase to everyone what they’re going to see the rest of the season and then see improvements from that first game.”

Georgia expects to start strong against Presbyterian and bring intensity on both offense and defense. Last year the Lady Bulldogs averaged 33 points in the first half, compared to 24.8 points by their opponents.

Despite strong numbers as a team last year, Georgia enters the game without its top two point scorers. Of those returning, sophomore Shacobia Barbee is the only player who started more than half of last year’s games.

“I’m still waiting for a total emerging of leadership,” head coach Andy Landers said. “We see pieces, a little here and a little there. It has to be consistent and it has to be every day for it to be meaningful.”

Senior Khaalidah Miller will be key to Georgia’s success against Presbyterian as she averaged 7.6 points per game last year. Also, the guard had the least turnovers for players who averaged more than 15 minutes per game. Miller’s ability to limit her mistakes and maintain a consistent approach will be vital.

“I have to keep reminding myself that I can’t afford to get down on certain plays if I don’t do what I intended to do,” Miller said. “I have to be strong for this team and help everyone move along so that we can have a successful year.”

Senior Karlee Taylor could cause Georgia the most trouble on the Presbyterian side of the ball. The Lady Bulldogs will need to contain Taylor on the perimeter, as she holds two Presbyterian records in the program’s Division I history: Most three-point field goals made in a career (185-for-439) and highest all-time free throw percentage (82.8).

Even though they are a guard-oriented team, the Lady Bulldogs should match up well against the Blue Hose. Presbyterian is a young team as well, with just two players starting more than 12 games in their career. Landers believes his team is well prepared for the game and expects his players to compete to the final buzzer.

“The staple has always been that you play hard and defend well,” Landers said. “I think what we’re going to see is a young team that has a lot of potential on the front line. You’ll see that develop throughout the season and it’s a work in progress.”