After an 11-day layoff, the No. 16 Georgia women‚Äôs basketball team return to the floor tonight to face Belmont, a team coached by a former Lady Bulldogs assistant.
Cameron Newbauer, who spent five years as an assistant under coach Andy Landers, is in his first season at Belmont (3-6), and he said earlier this week that having a team like Georgia (8-0) come to the Bruins‚Äô home floor is an exciting ‚Äî if somewhat daunting ‚Äî proposition.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm really excited about it because Andy is a dear friend and he‚Äôs the reason I‚Äôm in women‚Äôs college basketball,‚Äù Newbauer said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs got a number of former assistants who are head coaches now and I‚Äôm really honored to say he‚Äôs my greatest mentor. And to be playing against him in my first year is something special, especially on our home court. Having a team like Georgia come to our place is a special thing for our program, for sure.‚Äù
Newbauer, who left Athens after the 2011-12 season and spent last year as an assistant at Louisville, added he‚Äôs well aware the Bruins face quite a challenge in the Lady Bulldogs.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre the toughest and most physical team we‚Äôve seen by far this year, and that‚Äôs a trademark of Andy Landers and Georgia women‚Äôs basketball,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúThe athleticism and the defensive game plans they put together make them tough to score on. And offensively, they show their athleticism at best in the open court in transition and in offensive rebounding. That‚Äôs where they‚Äôre exceptional, and those are our biggest concerns ‚Äî transition and offensive rebounding.‚Äù
Landers said he enjoys match-ups against former assistants ‚Äî right up until the tipoff.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs fun leading up to the game because you talk a lot of trash, a lot of junk,‚Äù Landers said. ‚ÄúBut once it‚Äôs game time, it‚Äôs not any fun because you have two friends playing and it‚Äôs inevitable one‚Äôs going to win and one‚Äôs going to lose, and I suspect whoever wins feels a little bit bad about it and whoever loses feels real bad about it. So it‚Äôs not a win-win situation.‚Äù
Although Belmont has had some disappointing setbacks and has lost four of its last five games, Landers is adamant that tonight‚Äôs game at the Curb Event Center in Nashville, Tenn., won‚Äôt be an automatic victory.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôve struggled to win games but they haven‚Äôt struggled to play well,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúThey‚Äôve played well in almost all their games, with the exception maybe of one. I think Cam would be the first to tell you that they should have won a couple that they lost. It‚Äôs a good basketball team. They have height inside, they have shooting ability on the perimeter and they have two very capable point guards.‚Äù
Many of the more seasoned Lady Bulldogs are well familiar with Newbauer and several admitted it would be both ‚Äúweird‚Äù and exciting seeing him coaching from the opposing bench.
‚ÄúIt will be a little weird,‚Äù junior guard Erika Ford said. ‚ÄúCam and I have a pretty good relationship, so it will be exciting to get down there and see him and play his team and see all he‚Äôs done. He was the main person who recruited me and we had kind of a goofy relationship. He called me ‚Äòchicken lips‚Äô all the time. And he was hard on me in practice, probably one of the hardest on me, but he‚Äôs great and I‚Äôm really close with him.‚Äù
‚ÄúI love Cam and I‚Äôm happy and excited for him,‚Äù senior point guard Khaalidah Miller added. ‚ÄúI know he had been wanting a head coaching job and I‚Äôm proud of him for that. But once we step on the court, it‚Äôs strictly business, and I‚Äôll tell him I love him after the game.‚Äù
Having nearly a dozen days away from competition so early in the season might be unnerving for some coaches, but Landers feels the break came at a good time for Georgia.
‚ÄúNormally, we‚Äôd like to have a game, but this year, no,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúWith this team, we‚Äôve been without some players earlier in the season, we‚Äôve had some injuries and we‚Äôre young. We‚Äôve moved some players to different positions are some still are (moving), but most of all we played a lot of games ‚Äî it felt like we were playing every day for the last couple of weeks. I was ready for a break and ready for the opportunity to get back in the gym and practice and move a young team a little bit forward, and I didn‚Äôt think we did that in the last couple of games.‚Äù
RUNNING THE SHOW
Belmont‚Äôs Cameron Newbauer is one of five former Georgia assistant coaches who now have head coaching jobs. By the end of the season, Landers will have coached against four of his former aides. Here‚Äôs a look at former Landers assistants now leading their own programs:
Cameron Newbauer ‚Äî Belmont (tonight)
Susie Gardner ‚Äî Mercer (52-41 victory for Georgia on Nov. 14)
Sharon Baldwin-Tener ‚Äî Georgia State (70-58 victory for Georgia on Dec. 1)
Michael Shafer ‚Äî Richmond
Teri Williams-Flournoy ‚Äî Auburn (will play at Auburn on Feb. 23)
Source: Georgia Sports Information
NO. 16 GEORGIA AT BELMONT
WHEN/WHERE: 8 p.m. EST/Curb Event Center, Nashville, Tenn.
RADIO: The Ref 960-AM/103.7-FM (Gainesville)
RECORDS: Belmont is 3-6. Georgia is 8-0.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Belmont ‚Äî F Frankie Joubran (RFr., 6-1, 7.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg); C Blair Boyce (So., 6-5, 7.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg); G Kia Perry (Fr., 5-5, 2.0 ppg, 0.6 rpg); G Katie Carroll (Jr., 5-8. 8.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg); G Jordyn Luffman (Jr., 15.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg). Georgia ‚Äî G Khaalidah Miller (Sr., 5-9, 11.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg); G Shacobia Barbee (So., 5-10, 11.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg); F Merritt Hempe (So., 6-2, 6.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg); G/F Krista Donald (Jr., 5-11, 8.8 ppg., 7.0 rpg); G Erika Ford (Jr., 5-9, 11.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg).
SERIES: Georgia leads the series 2-0; in the two teams‚Äô first meeting, the Lady Bulldogs topped Belmont 53-36 in March 2007 in Minneapolis.
LAST MEETING: Georgia won 70-38 last November in Athens.
SEASON AT A GLANCE: Belmont has posted victories over Mercer, Lipscomb and Kent State and has lost to IUPUI, Chattanooga, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Purdue, Georgia State and Wake Forest. Georgia‚Äôs most recent victories were its first on the road as the Lady Bulldogs defeated George Washington (60-80) and Georgia State (70-58) in Atlanta.
NOTEWORTHY: In the Lady Bulldogs‚Äô 70-58 victory on Dec. 1 at Georgia State, sophomore Marjorie Butler made her first appearance of the season, collecting five points and three rebounds in 17 minutes of play. ‚Ä¶ Georgia‚Äôs leading scorer is guard Tiaria Griffin, who has averaged 15 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in five appearances. ‚Ä¶ The Lady Bulldogs are averaging 66.1 points per game and limiting opponents to 50 points per game. ‚Ä¶ Junior guard Katie Carroll (Parkview) is the only Georgia-born player on Belmont‚Äôs roster. ‚Ä¶ Guard Molly Ernst, Belmont‚Äôs only senior and a returning starter who averaged 9 points and 2 rebounds per game last season, has yet to play this year due to injury. ‚Ä¶ The Bruins‚Äô top performer off the bench is junior Adrienne Tarrence, who is averaging 6.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. ‚Ä¶ The Lady Bulldogs will host Kennesaw State at 2 p.m. Sunday; Belmont will play at Missouri on Monday, Dec. 16. ‚Ä¶ In 2012-13, Belmont went 18-14 overall and 11-5 in the Ohio Valley Conference.