Extra day off refreshes Lady Bulldogs before taking on Alabama

While both Georgia and Alabama come into today’s Southeastern Conference battle in Tuscaloosa with considerable impetus, the Crimson Tide may have a slight edge in the momentum department.

AJ Reynolds/Staff, @ajreynoldsphoto
Georgia guard/forward Shacobia Barbee (20) holds the ball while defended by Arkansas guard McKenzie Adams (3) and Arkansas guard Calli Berna (11) during the second half of the NCAA college basketball game between Georgia and Arkansas in Athens, Ga., Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014.

After dropping their first four SEC games, the Lady Bulldogs (14-5, 2-4) have come on stronger as of late, narrowly defeating Arkansas on Jan. 16 before posting a big 68-62 victory last Sunday at Florida.

While Georgia had Thursday night off, the Crimson Tide (9-10, 2-4) was polishing their résumé with a 57-55 upset victory over No. 9 Kentucky, which was all the more impressive when considering that their top scorer — senior guard Shafontaye Myers — didn’t play due to disciplinary reasons.

It might have been beneficial for the Lady Bulldogs to quickly follow up their triumph over Florida with a weekday game, but the team consensus was that having a few extra days to rest and polish was more helpful.

“The off week has been good for us, particularly coming on the heels of two successful games in terms of winning of losing,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “It gave us a minute to reacquaint ourselves to how that feels. I suspect that it’s a feeling we want to continue.”

“It was a great time for our bodies to recover and have some time off and to work on the little things that we had time to,” said sophomore forward Shacobia Barbee, who is one of seven players in Division I basketball — and the only SEC player — to lead her team in scoring (12.2 ppg), rebounds (7.8 rpg) assists (3.5 apg) and steals (2.7 spg). “Having a day off Thursday was very helpful.”

And nobody in the Lady Bulldogs camp seems worried that Alabama, despite its impressive victory on Thursday, might have the short-term momentum market cornered in today’s 3 p.m. tipoff.

“There’s things you control, there’s things you don’t control,” Landers said. “We don’t control how Alabama comes in. We control how we come in, we control our preparation and what we want to do. I’m happy for them that they beat Kentucky, but I can’t control how they feel or what their mindset is.”

And as far as long-term momentum is concerned, Georgia may actually possess the advantage as the Lady Bulldogs have not lost to the Crimson Tide since February 1998, a span of 16 years and 23 games.

“Most of the time, when you’re on streaks like that, there are three or four games during that period of time that could have gone either way,” Landers said. “And the odds are, one or two of them are going to go the other way, so we’ve defied those odds. There have been a number of games where there wasn’t any question who was going to win, but there have been those games that could have gone either way that our basketball team on that particular day stepped up to do what it needed to do.”

Both teams come into today’s game with plenty of mojo, but the stark reality is that Georgia and Alabama are enduring disappointing offensive stretches.

Both teams are at or near the bottom of virtually every offensive category in SEC statistics, including scoring offense, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, assists and assist-to-turnover ratio.

For that reason, it’s reasonable to expect a low-scoring affair, as the Lady Bulldogs — who dropped out of the national polls in mid-January — have averaged 67 points a night (13th in the conference) and Alabama averages 66 points a game (14th in the conference).

But senior point guard Khaalidah Miller thinks it’s possible a shootout could ensue.

“It’s the SEC — anything can happen,” she said. “(Alabama) just beat Kentucky the other night and showed that anything is possible. We’ve put in some new offenses, so we’ll see.”

Landers, who said he felt Alabama might be a touch quicker than his squad, added that today’s game probably won’t turn heads for prodigious scoring.

“Most of the games we’re going to play in, the scoring is going to be less than games being played at other places that night,” he said. “Defensively, we have the ability to keep points down. I think the other team generally has to run some clock to get what they want. And with Alabama in particular, they’re probably going to (play) zone (defense) the majority of the time, so they’re going to slow the game down.”

GEORGIA AT ALABAMA

When/Where: 3 p.m. today/Foster Auditorium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

TV/Radio: CSS/ The Ref 960-AM/103.7-FM (Gainesville)

Records: Georgia is 14-5 and 2-4 in the Southeastern Conference. Alabama is 9-10 and 2-4 in the SEC.

Probable Starters:

Georgia – G Marjorie Butler (So., 5-8, 2.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Khaadliah Miller (Sr., 5-8, 10.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg); G Shacobia Barbee (So., 5-10, 12.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg); F Krista Donald (Jr., 5-11, 9.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg); F Merritt Hempe (So., 6-2, 7.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg). Alabama – F Khadijah Carter (So., 6-1, 5.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg); F Nikki Hegstetter (So., 6-2, 5.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg); F Ashley Williams (Fr., 6-0, 11.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg); G Daisha Simmons (Jr., 5-11, 14.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg); G Sharin Rivers (Jr., 5-3, 2.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg)

Series: Georgia leads the series, which began in 1977, 36-9. The Lady Bulldogs have recorded 23 consecutive victories over the Crimson Tide and last lost to Alabama in 1998.

Last Meeting: On Jan. 31, 2013, the Lady Bulldogs defeated the Crimson Tide 65-59 at Stegeman Coliseum.

Season At A Glance: After losing their first four SEC games for the first time in program history, the Lady Bulldogs have posted league victories over Arkansas (60-58) and Florida (68-62). Alabama has lost SEC games to Kentucky, Texas A&M, Auburn and South Carolina and has defeated Ole Miss and Kentucky. The Crimson Tide upset No. 9 Kentucky 57-55 Thursday in Tuscaloosa.

Noteworthy: As of Jan. 20, five SEC teams are ranked in The Associated Press top 25 this week ‚Äì No. 9 Kentucky (15-4, 3-3), No. 11 Tennessee (15-4, 4-2), No. 15 LSU (15-4, 4-2), No. 16 Vanderbilt (16-3, 5-1) and No. 17 Texas A&M (16-4, 6-0). … In last Sunday‚Äôs victory at Florida, Ericka Ford scored a career-high 23 points and three teammates (Khaalidah Miller, 13 points, Shacobia Barbee, 12 points, Krista Donald, 10 points) scored in double figures. … Khaalidah Miller, Krista Donald and Merritt Hempe all lead Georgia with 18 starts. … Although she‚Äôs only started three games, Georgia‚Äôs Tiaria Griffin is the team‚Äôs second-leading scorer, averaging 11.2 points per game. … The Lady Bulldogs are ranked last in the SEC in free-throw percentage (.605), but connected on a season-best 89 percent (16 of 18) of their attempts against the Gators. … In its upset victory over Kentucky on Thursday, Alabama played without leading scorer, senior guard Shafontaye Myers, who didn‚Äôt play due to disciplinary reasons; Myers has averaged 15.1 points per game. … Junior guard Diasha Simmons, who scored the game-winning basket against Kentucky, led the Crimson Tide with 21 points, followed by junior Bri Hutchen, who came off the bench to score 10 points. … Sharin Rivers, who started in place of Myers, had seven points and four rebounds in 36 minutes of play against the Wildcats. … Alabama has three players from Georgia ‚Äì sophomore Nikki Hegstetter (Harrison), junior Brittany Jack (Peachtree Ridge) and freshman Ashley Williams (Alcovy).