Lady Bulldogs battling second half struggles

A disturbing trend has crept into Georgia’s execution since the holidays, and Tennessee ruthlessly exploited it last Sunday.

Georgia has not strung together two efficient halves in the same game since December.

Last Sunday, Tennessee capitalized by blitzing the Lady Bulldogs 39-24 in the second half to hand Georgia its first Southeastern Conference defeat of the season.

“We’ve definitely talked about putting two halves together before,” Georgia forward Anne Marie Armstrong said. “That’s something we’ve been focusing on, putting two halves together. We usually have a tendency to play really well the first half and then don’t really expand our lead that much in the second half. In Tennessee I think we did a really good job in the first half of out-playing them, rebounding and executing on offense. Our shots were falling. But in the second half we came out and missed some shots. They got the momentum and from there we couldn’t get the momentum back.”

No. 13-ranked Georgia (13-1, 1-1 in the SEC) will look for its first conference road win of the season when it travels to unranked Alabama (10-5, 0-2) for a 9 p.m. Eastern tipoff at Foster Auditorium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

“We really need to put two halves together and Tennessee exposed us,” Georgia forward Jasmine Hassell said. “We came out flat in the second half against Tennessee. You’ve got to watch your focus level and come out with more intensity.”

Georgia rolled through most of the preconference portion of its schedule by burying opponents in the first half and had the luxury of a lop-sided lead in most of its second halves. Now that SEC season has begun, Georgia won’t see many 20-point leads that give plenty of margin for error.

“We’ve seen it before,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “We’ve built big leads in the first half and haven’t really added a whole lot to those leads in the second. There’s concerns defensively. There have been too many times when things have happened in a game that we had pinpointed that we didn’t want to have happen.”

Georgia feels that its recent second-half blahs are a product of inattention. What should be minor mistakes, such as missed layups or missed rebounds, snowball into major issues that led to losses in two of Georgia’s last three games.

“We don’t like to lose, period,” Hassell said. “We don’t take pride in getting beat. But I don’t think this is something we should hang our heads over. The prize is still out there. All we need to do is take these next games and come out and execute and get a win. We know what we have to do to get better and it’s up to us to do it.”

Georgia is in its first slump of the season, having lost two of three after winning 12 in a row. But Georgia isn’t ready to panic because it’s still early in a grueling season.

“I don’t think our confidence is slipping,” Armstrong said. “It just makes us more aware of what we need to work on. We have a tough schedule. We knew that coming into the season. We knew that there were going to be some games that we could possibly lose, even coach told us that. We’ve got to keep playing and don’t let it affect your confidence. You’ve got keep doing what you do best.”

Georgia at Alabama

When: 9 p.m. Eastern

Where: Foster Auditorium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Radio: WRFC 960-AM.

TV: CSS.

Records: Georgia is 13-2, 1-1 in the SEC; Alabama is 10-5, 0-2.

Rankings: Georgia is No. 13, Alabama is unranked.

Probable starting lineups:

Alabama: G Daisha Simmons (So., 5-10, 11.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg); G Jasmine Robinson (Jr., 5-7, 10.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg); G Meghan Perkins (Sr., 5-11, 9.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg); F Kaneisha Horn (So., 6-1, 7.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg); F Alicia Mitcham (Sr., 6-2, 7.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg).

Georgia: G Jasmine James (Sr., 5-9, 12.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg); G Khaalidah Miller (Jr., 5-9, 9.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg); G Shacobia Barbee (Fr., 5-10, 5.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg); F Anne Marie Armstrong (Sr., 6-3, 7.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg); F Jasmine Hassell (Sr., 6-2, 11.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg).

Series record: Georgia leads 34-9, including 13-4 in Tuscaloosa.

Last meeting: Georgia won 81-66 last season in Tuscaloosa.

Season at a glance: Georgia won its first 12 games but has lost two of its last three, including a 79-66 defeat at Tennessee on Sunday. Alabama has opened SEC play with two straight losses, 91-52 at Texas A&M and 87-70 at home against Kentucky.

Noteworthy: Jasmine James’ 18 points against Tennessee boosted her to No. 20 on Georgia’s all-time scoring list. … Georgia associate head coach Joni Crenshaw is a former Alabama player and was team captain in 2000-01. … Georgia assistant Robert Mosley spent the last two seasons as an assistant at Alabama after being a longtime high school coach at Birmingham Ramsey. … Georgia guard Khaalidah Miller has averaged 16.0 points in three games against the Crimson Tide. … Georgia forward Jasmine Hassell has only taken eight shots and totaled seven points in the last two games. Anne Marie Armstrong has only taken eight shots and scored nine points combined in the last two games. … Georgia has beaten Alabama 21 straight times. … Alabama has forced an average of 23.9 turnovers a game. … Alabama has three guards who average double figures, Daisha Simmons (11.7 per game), Shafontaye Myers (11.3 ppg) and Jasmine Robinson (10.7 ppg).

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@JeffSchultzAJC @SethEmerson @BizWriterKristi Less than 3 weeks until basketball opener. Not that we are counting down.

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