Lady Bulldogs bounce back from first loss, look sharp in win over Illini

The No. 19 Georgia women’s basketball team dominated Illinois in the paint on its way to an 82-60 win against the Fighting Illini Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum.

The Bulldogs (12-1) nearly doubled the Illini’s output (7-6) in both rebounding  — 51 to Illinois’s 30 — and points in the paint — 50 to Illinois’s 28. Georgia also dominated in transition, scoring 16 points on fast breaks to Illinois’s two.

“We defended well, cleaned up, rebounded the ball, got it out really well and made good decisions in transition,” Georgia head coach Andy Landers said. “We did a nice job of passing, catching and finishing.”

Georgia was also on top of its game defensively. Illinois shot 33 percent from the floor and 17 percent from 3-point range — where it previously averaged 33 percent.

Landers chalked his team’s sturdy performance to an experimentation in its man-to-man defense.

“We came out today and said we were going to play man-to-man, but we were going to switch one through five,” Landers said. “We switched all day long and really did a nice job with it. Defensively, I thought we were able to keep them pushed away from where they wanted to be.”

Forward Krista Donald was one of the reasons Georgia had so much success, offensively and defensively. The junior from Lake, Miss., had a double-double of 10 points and 15 rebounds — 10 of which came in the first half. She also had a career-high seven assists.

Her performance was even better when considering the 5-foot-11 Donald had to play center most of the night due to foul trouble from regular centers Merritt Hempe and Halle Washington.

“Krista played amazing tonight,” senior guard Khaalidah Miller said. “And you have to factor in almost every game she’s the smallest forward on the floor. She did really well tonight stepping up and taking that role when she didn’t have Merritt out there and she didn’t have Halle out there. She doesn’t normally play the five, but she stepped up and did that tonight.”

Another key contributor was sophomore guard Shacobia Barbee who, along with fellow sophomore guard Tiaria Griffin had a team-high 17 points. Barbee also had eight rebounds, six assists and four steals. 

Barbee’s performance may be most notable for how she performed in transition. 

“We were focusing on finding the open man and getting the best shot possible for our team,” Barbee said. “We wanted to help each other find the easiest shot so we could knock one down.”

Multiple times, Barbee created a turnover on the perimeter and made a long pass to a teammate streaking toward an open basket a split-second later.

“She can connect the dots,” Landers said. “She knows if we can get the other team to turn it over on the perimeter, that somebody ought to be flying.”

The win against Illinois comes sandwiched between Georgia’s 61-58 loss at Rutgers last Saturday and its first Southeastern Conference game of the season Jan. 2 at Vanderbilt, followed three days later by a game against rival Tennessee in Athens.

“After that lost we had to bounce back, because there was no way we could lose two in a row,” Donald said. “That would’ve crushed our spirits. But we bounced back and we got the win. That will give us more confidence going into the SEC.”

Follow marcweiszer

marcweiszer

Georgia WRs Scott-Wesley, Mitchell not expected back this week http://t.co/1z9bQMYYDr #UGA

5 hours ago