Georgia’s class of 2013 came to Athens with making a difference on their minds.
The Lady Bulldog seniors will play their final game at Stegeman Coliseum today with more work ahead, but also with the satisfaction that things won’t be the same as before they arrived.
“When we first got here, our theme was change,” Georgia forward Jasmine Hassell said. “When we look at it all together, everybody has changed. Everybody has contributed. Everybody has done something to change the program. We came in here as five people and now it’s morphed into seven. That’s change. We came here for change, so to see us change and the program change the way that it has, it’s cool.”
No. 11 Georgia (23-5, 11-4 Southeastern Conference) will host Vanderbilt (19-9, 9-6) for Senior Day at 1:30 p.m. today Stegeman Coliseum. The Lady Bulldogs will honor seven senior players in the final regular-season game before next week’s SEC Tournament.
“It’s gone by in a blink of any eye,” Georgia forward Tamika Willis said. “It feels like I just came in yesterday, being assigned to rooms and being new to the facility and learning my way around. I’ve seen a big change in all the ladies that I came in with, even the ones who came along after we got here. It’s nice to see that much growth both on the court and off the court.”
Guard Jasmine James along with forwards Anne Marie Armstrong, Willis and Hassell will be the four-year players to be honored. Junior college transfer Danielle Bennett will also be honored along with injured forwards Ebony Jones and Marisela Rodriguez.
“They’ve really stayed the course,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “They had goals when they came here when we talked. I can remember outlining some ideas and some things that we needed to accomplish and change. They’ve gone about the business of trying do that as best they could.”
Georgia made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament two consecutive years when the current seniors were freshmen and sophomores. When they were freshmen, the Lady Bulldogs set a school record by winning 16 consecutive games to start the season. With their last postseason together beginning next week, the seniors feel like there’s still unfinished business.
“I think we’ve set a foundation for the future,” James said. “We went to two straight Sweet 16s. We made history our freshman year. I think we’ve made a step towards where we wanted to go, but I still don’t think it’s where we want it to be when we talked about change. Not only was it staying in the NCAA Tournament, but it was also about SEC championships and Final Fours and things like that. As far as that goes, we haven’t accomplished that yet. But we’ve definitely made strides to make that happen.”
James figured prominently in what could be considered the on-court highlight of the class’ four seasons together so far. She hit a last-second put-back as Georgia beat Florida State in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
“My personal moment is probably that NCAA Tournament my sophomore year,” James said. “That last-second shot against Florida State is probably my favorite moment. But really, when I sit back and look at it, my favorite moment is probably going to the NCAA Tournament every year because not everybody gets that opportunity. As I’ve been here, we’ve gotten that opportunity not only to go but to actually be able to compete.”
Vanderbilt at Georgia
When: 1:30 p.m. on Sunday
Where: Stegeman Coliseum.
Radio: WRFC 960-AM.
Records: Georgia is 23-5, 11-4 in the SEC; Vanderbilt is 19-9, 9-6.
Rankings: Georgia is No. 11, Vanderbilt is unranked.
Probable starting lineups:
Vanderbilt: G Jasmine Lister (Jr., 5-4, 12.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg); G Gabby Smith (5-10, Sr., 1.7 ppg, 1.2 rpg); G Elan Brown (Sr., 6-0, 6.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg); F Heather Bowe (Fr., 6-0, 6.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg); F Tiffany Clarke (Sr., 6-0, 16.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg).
Georgia: G Jasmine James (Sr., 5-9, 11.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G Tiaria Griffin (Fr., 5-7, 7.1 ppg 2.8 rpg); G Shacobia Barbee (Fr., 5-10, 6.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg); F Anne Marie Armstrong (Sr., 6-3, 7.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg); F Jasmine Hassell (Sr., 6-2, 12.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg).
Series record: Georgia leads 31-25, including 16-7 in Athens.
Last meeting: Georgia won 76-63 last year in Athens.
Season at a glance: Georgia has won seven of its last nine but comes off of a 50-38 loss at Mississippi State on Thursday. Vanderbilt has won three consecutive, including 59-44 against Auburn on Thursday.
Noteworthy: This is the regular-season finale for both teams and both teams have secured first-round byes into next week’s SEC Tournament. Georgia can be either a No. 3 or No. 4 seed depending on results from multiple games today. … This is Senior Day at Georgia, and the Lady Bulldogs will honor active players Jasmine James, Jasmine Hassell, Anne Marie Armstrong, Tamika Willis and Danielle Bennett along with injured players Ebony Jones and Marisela Rodriguez. … Georgia comes off a dreadful offensive performance at Mississippi State, setting season lows in points (38), field goal shooting (10-for-55, 18.2 percent) and 3-point shooting (2-for-22, 9.1 percent). … Armstrong was Georgia’s only double-figure scorer against Mississippi State with 10 points. … Vanderbilt’s Christina Foggie returned to play against Auburn after missing four games with an injured knee. … Vanderbilt has won eight of the last 10 against Georgia.