Recent history has not been very kind to Georgia against Tennessee.
The Lady Bulldogs have lost 22 of the last 26 games against the Lady Volunteers and have not won in Knoxville since 1996. Georgia hopes to reverse that trend when it travels to Tennessee for its most high-profile game so far this season.
“I’m feeling pretty good about it,” Georgia guard Jasmine James said. “I think one of the biggest differences in this year compared to other years is we’ve got more depth. We’re a more talented team this year than we have been in previous years. We’re more well-rounded. I think we’ve got the right mindset to go on the road and to be able to play in an environment like that so I’m really excited to see how it’s going to play out.”
No. 10-ranked Georgia (13-1, 1-0 in the Southeastern Conference) travels to No. 12-ranked Tennessee (10-3, 1-0) for a 1 p.m. tipoff in Thompson-Boling Arena.
This game will have special resonance because several of Georgia’s players are from the state of Tennessee, including freshman Marjorie Butler who is from Knoxville. This will also be the first time Georgia has faced Tennessee since the series began in 1980 without Pat Summitt as the Lady Volunteers’ head coach.
Longtime Lady Volunteers’ assistant Holly Warlick is in her first season as the head coach.
“I’m not sure how it will feel, but I’m excited to play back home in front of friends and family,” Butler said. “I’m even more excited about the game. It will be a good matchup between us and Tennessee. That’s the part I’m most excited about because it’s such a good game.”
Although Georgia’s wins against Tennessee have been scarce, the Lady Bulldogs’ current crop of seniors have beaten the Lady Volunteers before. In 2010, Georgia ambushed the then-No. 3 Lady Volunteers 53-50 in Athens when Jasmine Hassell, Anne Marie Armstrong and James were freshmen.
“I can remember it a little bit, but not a lot because it was so long ago,” James said. “I definitely remember the win. I don’t remember how it played out. I remember we came out that day and did a really good job of executing and we used our defense really well to be able to come out with the win. It’s definitely something we’re going to have to do this time as well, use our defense to turn it into offense.”
Georgia will take on Tennessee with its deepest team in years. Georgia coach Andy Landers frequently substitutes five at a time and nobody averages more than 25.4 minutes a game.
Georgia’s teams have been about six or seven deep in recent years, so the Lady Bulldogs have run into problems against teams like Tennessee that could play faster for longer and wear out Georgia’s legs. That might not be the case this year.
“A lot of the games, whether they’ve been with Tennessee or anyone else, have been competitive to a point,” Landers said. “But in my mind when it slipped away, it was because of depth. That’s the difference this year. I think we’ve got staying power. We can come out and play well against anybody. But as the game continues, we’ve got a chance to keep playing well.”
Although Tennessee might carry mystique, it isn’t the only highly-ranked opponent Georgia will see in the SEC. The SEC currently has six ranked teams, led by Kentucky at No. 6.
“We just have to look at as any SEC game,” James said. “I don’t think it’s healthy to look at it any other way. Yeah, we have Tennessee but the next game we’ve got Alabama on the road. In the SEC you never know how a team is going to play night-in and night-out so you’re going to have to be prepared to play. You’ve definitely have to look at it like it’s just another SEC game and not with our heads all blown up about Tennessee. We want to go into it with the same focus we have for every game and have the same game plan and stick to the game plan and come out with a win.”
Georgia at Tennessee
When: 1 p.m.
Where: Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.
Radio: WRFC 960-AM.
Records: Georgia is 13-1, 1-0 in the SEC; Tennessee is 10-3, 1-0.
Rankings: Georgia is No. 10, Tennessee is No. 12
Probable starting lineups:
Tennessee: G Ariel Massengale (So., 5-6, 8.5 ppb, 2.3 rpg); G Meighan Simmons (Jr., 5-0, 15.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg); F Taber Spani (Sr., 6-1, 7.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg); F Beshaara Graves (Fr., 6-2, 13.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg); C Isabelle Harrison (So., 6-3, 10.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg).
Georgia: G Jasmine James (Sr., 5-9, 12.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg); G Khaalidah Miller (Jr., 5-9, 9.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg); G Shacobia Barbee (Fr., 5-10, 5.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg); F Anne Marie Armstrong (Sr., 6-3, 7.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg); F Jasmine Hassell (Sr., 6-2, 11.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg).
Series record: Tennessee leads 43-15,including 18-4 in Knoxville.
Last meeting: Tennessee beat Georgia 67-50 in Athens last year.
Season at a glance: Georgia bounced back from its first loss of the season by beating Missouri 77-46 in the SEC opener. Tennessee beat No. 18-ranked South Carolina 73-53 in its SEC opener in Columbia.
Noteworthy: Georgia has lost four straight to Tennessee and has not beaten the Lady Volunteers in Knoxville since 1996. … Georgia has four players from the state of Tennessee, Jasmine James (Memphis), Jasmine Hassell (Lebanon), Shacobia Barbee (Murfreesboro) and Marjorie Butler (Knoxville). Georgia coach Andy Landers is a native of Maryville, Tenn. Tennessee has one player from the state of Georgia, freshman guard Andraya Carter from Flowery Branch. … Georgia’s bench has outscored opponents 391-190 this season. … This is the 49th time both Georgia and Tennessee have been ranked when they met. … Jasmine James leads the team in average minutes per game at 25.4. Last season four players averaged at least 31 minutes a game. … Two of Tennessee’s three losses have come against No. 1-ranked Stanford and No. 3-ranked and defending national champion Baylor. The third came at Chattanooga. … Tennessee has won 12 of the last 13 meetings with Georgia. … Tennessee starting forward Cierra Burdick is out indefinitely with a broken hand. She was averaging 6.5 points and 8.8 rebounds a game when she went out on New Year’s Day.