On the heels of another upset victory in the Southeastern Conference, Georgia heads to Auburn today with plans to upset some recent disquieting trends.
AJ Reynolds/Staff, @ajreynoldsphoto
Georgia guard Erika Ford (31) gets a hug from Georgia forward Samantha Glodis (10) after an NCAA college basketball game on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 in Athens, Ga.
First and foremost, the Lady Bulldogs — who bested No. 19 LSU 71-67 on Thursday, are one victory away attaining from a .500 mark in the SEC and are playing some of their best basketball of the season — must be wary of a letdown against an Auburn team that sustained an old-fashioned Tennessee whipping Thursday night in Knoxville.
And in the process, Georgia (18-8, 6-7 SEC) hopes to take steps to reverse the rotten luck it has endured on the road this season. At 3-6 with two out-of-town games remaining, the Lady Bulldogs will finish below .500 while traveling for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign, when Georgia was 4-9 in its opponents’ gym.
“It’s (about) being comfortable,” junior Erika Ford, who scored 16 of her 20 points against LSU in the second half, said. “We’re at home, so we have our fans and we’re comfortable and we know everything going on in the gym. Going there and feeling comfortable and in control is important.”
Although road woes are an unfamiliar predicament for the Lady Bulldogs, they’re not the only team singing the get-on-the-bus blues. Heading into the next-to-last weekend of the regular season, nine of the SEC’s 14 teams have losing road records. No. 4 South Carolina (24-2 overall, 10-1 on the road), No. 16 Texas A&M (21-6, 8-2), Tennessee (21-5, 6-2), Kentucky (19-7, 7-3) and Vanderbilt (18-8, 6-5) sport winning road marks.
“First of all, we’ve played some very good teams on the road,” Georgia coach Andy Landers, who in 35 years has had three teams with losing road records. “We’ve also played some teams that play very well at home, which makes them good teams on the road. Missouri and Mississippi State — those are hard games. That said, we kind of changed up the routine a little bit at Texas A&M and we’ll change it up again (for Auburn) to make sure we’re mentally engaged.”
Ford said she can’t point to any one factor that has hindered the Lady Bulldogs’ sojourns this season (Georgia has lost at Rutgers, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Alabama, Texas A&M and Mississippi State) but added that she felt the team needed some extra focus against Auburn (14-14-12, 5-8 in the SEC), which is one of the few teams Georgia has an all-time losing road record against.
“We have to be mentally prepared and physically ready for a battle,” Ford, who averages 10.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, said. “They’re like any other team in the SEC — they’re going to come out and want to get after us. We have to have our minds on right because we haven’t really been good on the road, so to prepare for that and be ready for that and finish a game on the road will be really good for us.”
In Auburn (which, for the record, is 5-6 away from home) Georgia will encounter a team that might actually be a bit younger than itself, with six freshmen and two sophomores. The Tigers had a three-game winning streak interrupted by Missouri on Feb. 16 and then endured a 93-63 drubbing at the hands of the Lady Volunteers on Thursday.
“We’ve got to take in consideration that we’re going on the road,” Landers said. “We played at home (against LSU) and that was great. We’ve got to go on the road and I think we’re going to encounter an upset Auburn team because they had it going — they’d won three or four in a row but now they’ve lost a couple, so they’re smarting a little bit.”
Landers pointed to Auburn’s athleticism and array of defensive strategies as potential problems in today’s game.
“It is a team with great length,” he said. “Athleticism and length are the things that jump off the page at me. Their guards are long-armed, long-legged, they’re big on the perimeter, and they have excellent size inside. They try to keep things mixed up defensively; they try to keep you confused. … They’re going to mix those things up and try to confuse you so you’ve got to keep your head about you.”
Junior forward Krista Donald said the Lady Bulldogs need to play strong, or the team’s good play in the last two weeks will soon be forgotten.
“We can’t dwell on (our recent) success and we need to stay focused on the goals that we have as a team in maintaining our level of focus game by game,” Donald, who averages 8.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, said. “We have to keep playing harder and coming together as a team. We know we’re a good team and every team has hard times, but we have to rally together and stay focused and continue to strive toward (our goals).”
GEORGIA AT AUBURN
When/where: 3 p.m. today/Auburn Arena, Auburn, Ala.
TV/radio: None/ The Ref 960-AM and 103.7-FM Gainesville
Records: Georgia is 18-8 overall and 6-7 in the Southeastern Conference; Auburn is 14-2 and 5-8 in the SEC.