Lady Bulldogs’ Hempe scores career-high 18 in rout of Kennesaw State

It was a Sunday afternoon where the Kennesaw State Owls might have been better served to stay in the barn.

In its most dominating performance of the season, No. 16 Georgia had five players score in double figures, and 11 of the 12 Lady Bulldogs in the lineup tallied at least two points in a 91-32 victory over the visiting Owls (1-8) at Stegeman Coliseum.

The Lady Bulldogs — who host Lipscomb at 7 p.m. Tuesday — improved to 10-0, the eighth-best start and the 20th 10-game winning streak in program history.

Behind the early scoring of 6-foot-3 forward Merritt Hempe, Georgia jumped out to a 16-2 lead in the first nine minutes of play and kept Kennesaw State — which committed 16 first-half turnovers — from reaching double figures until there was less than one minute left in the half.

Once the smoke had cleared, the Lady Bulldogs led 45-11 after the first 20 minutes.

“Just about everything I saw I liked,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “Defensively, we were consistent for 40 minutes. A lot of times when you get ahead you get lazy, you get sloppy defensively. We put a lot of effort out for 40 minutes and I’m proud of that. Offensively, we were really unselfish with 24 (assists), we moved the ball to the point where we got the right person the right shot.”

Hempe, who recorded a career-high 18 points against the Owls, utilized her size and shot 7 of 10 from the field with four rebounds

“We saw a height advantage and we took the opportunity to bring the ball inside and the guards did a great job of finding us,” Hempe, who was 4 of 5 from the free-throw line and scored 13 points last Thursday at Belmont, said. “I missed a free throw and I missed a few shots, and that’s something (Landers) and I have talked about – looking for perfection and not settling.”

“Man, she played amazing – 7 of 10 from the floor is really great,” point guard Khaalidah Miller said of Hempe’s play. “And in the last game she was 5 of 6 from the floor. She’s been playing really well and that’s what we need her to do because we have to establish that inside game and she and Krista Donald have done a great job with that.”

Landers said that he liked what Hempe did on both ends of the floor.

“I was pleased that Merritt played very well offensively today,” he said. “That makes two games in a row. The process we’re involved in in developing those inside players, we’re still in the beginning stages, but you can see some things starting to happen now as a result of the work that has gone into that. … I thought late in the game she started to do some things defensively we haven’t seen her do, getting her hands on some balls and (she) doubled down and helped and did a good job of being alert and seeing where she was needed and going there.”

Hempe was paced by Shacobia Barbee (13 points, eight rebounds, four assists), Tiaria Griffin (13 points, three steals, two assists), Miller (12 points, six rebounds, two assists) and Halle Washington (12 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals).

It was a highlight day for several Lady Bulldogs besides Hempe as Washington tied her career high in points and rebounds and Marjorie Butler posted a career-high seven assists.

“We shared the ball on a night when anybody could have gotten shots,” Landers said. “That’s discipline and teamwork and caring about your teammates. I was really pleased with that.”

Kennesaw State, which lost two starters to injury at the beginning of the season and dropped its seventh consecutive game, was the picture of frustration and futility, shooting 21.7 percent (10 of 46) from the field, committing 26 turnovers (which accounted for 36 Lady Bulldog points) and getting beat on the glass by a 45-36 margin.

After posting just 11 points in the first half, the Owls needed more than four minutes to score 10 second-half points but then didn’t score again until the 8:17 mark, when Bria Young hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to make the score 74-22. Kennesaw State managed but 10 more points in the final seven minutes.

It was a nice afternoon outing for Georgia in another area as 11 Lady Bulldogs got into the scoring column.

“Everybody’s a little happier,” Landers said. “If you’re not getting to play, you want to play. If you’re playing, you want to shoot. If you get to shoot, you want to score. It all adds up, but when everybody gets to play, (the) mood is a little better, spirits are higher when you come to practice the next time. It’s understandable, but to our players credit we haven’t had anybody pout all year long.”

Notes: Miller moved to No. 32 on Georgia’s all-time scoring list, passing Megan Darrah. … Georgia is now 428-6 when scoring more than 80 points during Landers’ tenure. … The Lady Bulldogs’ 91 points were a season high and was the team’s highest offensive output since January, when Georgia defeated Alabama 95-83. … Georgia’s 59-point margin of victory was the largest since the Lady Bulldogs defeated Savannah State 103-34 in 2005. … The team set season highs in field goals (35) and assists (24).

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