The wintry weather forced the Georgia women‚Äôs basketball team to change its original travel plans, but the Lady Bulldogs are still subject to dealing with turbulence against No. 14 Texas A&M tonight.
Georgia (16-7, 4-6 Southeastern Conference) left Athens Tuesday afternoon, a day ahead of schedule, to get to College Station for its rematch with the Aggies. Texas A&M (18-6, 8-2) defeated the Lady Bulldogs 58-44 on Jan. 12 in Athens; tonight‚Äôs game represents Georgia‚Äôs first visit to Texas A&M.
Coach Andy Landers‚Äô only concern with the adjusted itinerary was the disruption of the team‚Äôs customary road procedures, although he did see a silver cloud within. Georgia is 3-5 in road games this season while Texas A&M is an intimidating 11-1 (including a 4-1 league record) at Reed Arena.
‚ÄúIt takes you out of a routine, so you never know,‚Äù Landers said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm a huge believer that teams and players function better when they‚Äôre in a routine. That said, I really think it could be of great benefit to us because it‚Äôs going to allow us time ‚Äî time that we can spend watching film.
‚ÄúWe can‚Äôt go to chemistry class; we can‚Äôt help that. I wish we were. But we‚Äôll fill that time with a real thorough preparation. Our players have an opportunity.‚Äù
Junior guard Erika Ford said a change from the usual sequence of events isn‚Äôt problematic.
‚ÄúWe get to go there and get adjusted sooner than we normally would,‚Äù Ford, who earned high-scoring honors in Georgia‚Äôs last two games, said. ‚ÄúWe can get on the floor earlier than we normally do and we can practice in there and get adjusted to the rims and the lighting and everything. That‚Äôs definitely a positive.‚Äù
And even though her day was to be spent in a radically different mode than most of her UGA classmates, sophomore guard Shacobia Barbee summed it up pretty well for most of the student body.
‚ÄúNo class is fine with me,‚Äù said Barbee, who leads the team in a half-dozen statistical categories, including points (262), average (12.5), rebounds (165, 7.9 per game) and steals (61, 2.9 per game). ‚ÄúI think we‚Äôll pretty much be doing the same thing as we would be if we were here, except not having class and having practice a little earlier than usual.‚Äù
Texas A&M, whose only SEC losses came at the hands of No. 8 Tennessee and No. 16 Vanderbilt, shares with Georgia a keen focus on defense, perhaps at the hands of point production. The Aggies are ranked 10th in the conference in points per game at 67.9, with Georgia ranked 12th at 67.5. But in scoring defense, Texas A&M is third (56.6) and the Lady Bulldogs are fourth (57.3) in the league.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs not unusual,‚Äù Landers said. ‚ÄúWhen you‚Äôre pretty good defensively, you tend to slow the game down. When you‚Äôre bad, the other team just comes down and scores on you. It‚Äôs not unusual for those two things, particularly in our defensive styles. We‚Äôre not teams that force you into turning the ball over. If we were, it would probably tack eight or 10 more points on the board.‚Äù
When asked if he felt tonight‚Äôs game would be another low-scoring outing for both teams, Landers said, ‚ÄúThe indicators point that way but I‚Äôm not so sure that will be the case. If we execute, what does that mean? If we cut fast, cut quick, use screens, set screens, we‚Äôre capable of putting more points up the first game. And they are, too. ‚Ä¶ I think it could go either way.‚Äù
Barbee, who also leads the SEC in steals, opined that if both teams ‚Äî who between them tout seven players who average double-digit points ‚Äî played to their strengths, there could be a dearth of points.
‚ÄúThe way that we and Texas A&M play defense, there‚Äôs the potential for a low-scoring game but then again, some of our players could go for 20 (points) and some of our players could go for 20,‚Äù she said. ‚ÄúYou never know how the score will be, but defense-wise, both teams are right on point and at this point in the season, we‚Äôre both really good at disrupting the other teams. That‚Äôs a key.‚Äù
When the two teams met last month, Texas A&M ‚Äî which has never lost to Georgia ‚Äî was in the midst of a six-game winning streak to open SEC play and Georgia had lost its first two conference games for the first time in two decades (and would go on to an 0-4 start in league play). Landers is confident he‚Äôll take a different team to the floor tonight.
‚ÄúHere‚Äôs what I remember,‚Äù Landers said. ‚ÄúI wasn‚Äôt impressed with the enthusiasm we had coming into that game. We‚Äôre playing at home against a good A&M team. We‚Äôd been beaten a couple of times. There should have been a fight there that I didn‚Äôt see. That‚Äôs what we‚Äôve got to have. Now we‚Äôre at their place. We talk about ‚Äòmust-win‚Äô situations, and my take on it is you must win ‚Äôem all.
‚ÄúThe carrot that‚Äôs dangling out in front of us now is we‚Äôve got a chance to go to College Station and beat a top 20, and in my view, probably a top 12 or top 13 team in the country on their court. Well, that will get you something. The next two days, we‚Äôre going to get excited about this game.‚Äù