Players usually become less aggressive when they pick up their fourth foul early in the second half.
Georgia guard Jasmine James (10) passes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the Lady Dogs’ win on Sunday at Stegeman Coliseum. James, a senior, finished with 10 points, four rebounds and an assist.
When Erika Ford heard the whistle from her fourth, the sophomore guard shook off the tentativeness and provided the spark that helped No. 10-ranked Georgia to a 57-51 win against Rutgers in Sunday’s season opener at Stegeman Coliseum.
“I was just thinking that I had to play smart and not foul,” Ford said. “I was trying to figure out what I was going to do if they were going to try to take it at me — whether I was going to try to take the charge or get out of the way. But either way, I figured it was time to step up and play.”
Ford scored all eight of her points and grabbed all four of her rebounds after being whistled for her fourth foul with 10:34 left in the game. Her back-to-back fastbreak layups helped turn back a rally by Rutgers and gave the Lady Bulldogs a two-possession lead for the rest of the game.
“Erica was huge,” senior guard Jasmine James said. “She just came in and gave us a lot of energy on the defensive end and the offensive end that we weren’t really getting before. She was really huge for us tonight.”
Georgia (1-0) won its 11th opener in the last 12 seasons as four Lady Bulldogs hit double figures. Khaalidah Miller scored 12 while Anne Marie Armstrong, Jasmine Hassell and Jasmine James each had 10. Erica Wheeler led Rutgers (0-1) with 12 points while Chelsey Lee had 11.
“Erica was huge at the end,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “(Betnijah) Laney was trying to take the game over. Erica came out and kind of put the stops on that. She got out in transition and got a couple layups. I think she knocked down four foul shots in that run. She seized almost every opportunity she had in the last eight minutes of the game.”
Laney hit 3 of 13 from the field and scored seven points for Rutgers. Ford also hit 4 of 6 from the line in the last 10 minutes of the game.
“Erica played a critical role today,” Miller said. “She was very crucial as far as rebounding and coming in and giving us a spark when we needed her. She was really crucial hitting those free throws.
Georgia led by 10 points at halftime. But Rutgers took advantage of a sluggish start to the second half by the Lady Bulldogs to pull within one possession on five seperate occasions in the first 10 minutes. Ford returned from the bench after picking up her fourth foul and hit a free throw, grab a rebound and convert a fastbreak layup. Miller capped the run with a 3-pointer to give Georgia a 43-35 lead with 6:42 left.
“Playing aggressivley was how she got the four fouls,” Landers said. “She knew that we had other people there and she knew that she was going to have to go hard to have any effect. We didn’t put her in to soft-play somebody. We put her in to get stops and she did it.”
Rutgers stayed in contact as Wheeler hit a pair of 3-pointers. But Hassell scored back-to-back buckets. Ford, Miller and Armstrong combined to hit 8 of 10 from the line in the last 2:53 to keep Rutgers at arm’s length.
“Coach Landers has done this job with such excellence for so long,” Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer said. “He’s nothing less than an outstanding coach. He has a team of great athletes and they’re disciplined. They know how to execute. I’m not surprised.”
Notes: Rutgers out-rebounded Georgia 42-29 and had 17 offensive boards. … Georgia hit 5 of 19 (26.3 percent from the 3-point line and 14 of 24 (58.3 percent) from the free throw line. … Georgia trailed early but went on a 14-4 run to take a 10-point halftime lead. … Hassell had two of Georgia’s 12 assists. … The game was ragged on both ends. Rutgers had 26 turnovers and Georgia had 17.