Andy Landers wanted his slumping team to take a long, hard look in the mirror during the bye week.
Those moments of reflection worked, at least for an afternoon.
No. 14 Georgia produced its highest point total in almost three weeks as it buried rival Florida 69-52 on Sunday at Stegeman Coliseum.
“I think we responded great, but there still needs to be a bigger response on down the road,” Georgia senior Jasmine Hassell said. “This was a good beginning, and as the season progresses we’re going to keep kicking the can down the road.”
Georgia (17-3 5-2 in the Southeastern Conference) flew out to a 19-point halftime lead and was never challenged by Florida (13-8, 2-5), which lost its fourth in a row. Florida put on a late rush against Georgia’s reserves to narrow the margin to 17 points. Georgia had not scored more than 57 points since getting a season-high 95 against Alabama on Jan. 10.
“I’m very satisfied with how we did tonight,” Georgia freshman Tiaria Griffin said. “We kind of slipped a little bit in the middle. But I think we played very well as a whole.”
Landers infused the lineup with new blood as Griffin and Krista Donald drew starting assignments over Khaalidah Miller and Anne Marie Armstrong. Griffin and Donald responded with double-digit scoring efforts as Griffin hit 12 and Donald had a season-high 11. Jasmine Hassell scored a game-high 13 while freshman guard Shacobia Barbee had seven points and 11 rebounds.
“I’m encouraged, because this is like a stepping stone and another step towards what we want,” Donald said. “We had a different mindset and a different focus because we knew we had to regroup. We just stuck to that and tried to stay focused.”
Georgia held Florida to 22 of 64 (34.4 percent) field-goal shooting and forced 17 turnovers. The Gators did not have a double-digit scorer but had four players score eight apiece: January Jones, Kayla Lewis, Jennifer George and Sydney Moss. George played 22 minutes and nursed an injured shoulder she suffered on Jan. 13 against Tennessee.
“I think we’re on the right track and now we’ve got to stay on track,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “We’ve got to understand that it’s a fight to get where we want to be as a basketball team. I feel like we slipped, and I think the players feel that way, too. It’s never easy to get 13 or 14 young people on the same page. But that’s what we’ve got to get to.”
Last week, Georgia followed up a lackluster 64-46 home loss to Texas A&M with a poor practice while Landers was out of town recruiting. Landers locked the team out of the gym for a day to get its attention. Although the first game after the lockout went Georgia’s way, it’s not going to be a quick process.
“That’s absolutely true, it’s not going to be quick, and I’d never take that statement back,” Hassell said. “It’s a good beginning. It took a lot to get where we are now from where we were and it’s going to take us a while to get where we need to be. We can’t get frustrated, and we have to continue to kick the can on down the road.”
Georgia created its separation in the first half as it built a 39-20 lead. Georgia outscored Florida 25-14 in the paint and out-rebounded the Gators 27-18. Florida committed 10 turnovers and hit 1 of 7 from the 3-point line and 1 of 5 from the free-throw line.
“I just thought we did a really poor job of executing, and Georgia’s a tough team to play at home, especially when they’re coming off of their bye week,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said. “I think they really used their week well, obviously, and they really came out ready.”
Georgia expanded its lead to as many as 31 with 7:29 left in the game, but Florida went on closed the game on a 19-5 run to narrow the margin.
“I thought we started to tail off the last four minutes of the first half,” Landers said. “The first half as a whole, yeah, you take that and say it was a great half. It was. But energy, sense of urgency, playing every possession like it’s the last possession of a one-point game, that started to tail off at the end of the first half and we didn’t see it in the second half.”
NOTEWORTHY: Georgia wore pink uniforms as part of the Play 4Kay initiative for breast cancer awareness. … Florida hit 5 of 14 (35.7 percent) from the free-throw line. … The 69 points on Sunday was the most Georgia has scored in three games. … Anne Marie Armstrong came off the bench to score seven points and get nine rebounds. Georgia’s bench outscored Florida’s 22-17.