No. 25 Lady Bulldogs search for first SEC, consistent play

Khaalidah Miller was an infant the last time the Georgia women’s basketball opened Southeastern Conference play with two consecutive losses.

Miller, the Lady Bulldogs’ only senior, was born Dec. 20, 1992. Georgia finished 4-7 in conference play that season.

Now, No. 25 Georgia (12-3, 0-2 SEC) is tied with Mississippi State and Alabama for dead last in the SEC standings.

“That’s not normal for us,” said Miller, who averages 11.3 points per game.

Miller attributed the two-game skid — and dropping three of the last four — to an overall lack of consistency. Georgia’s last four opponents — Rutgers, Illinois, Vanderbilt and Tennessee — have scored 93 points off of 87 turnovers while the Lady Bulldogs have scored 60 points off of their opponents’ 71 turnovers.

“The only thing we’ve been consistent at is turning the ball over, so I think we just have to limit our turnovers and a lot of those turnovers are unforced,” Miller said. “We’re just making mental mistakes and we have to eliminate that.”

The Lady Bulldogs, who play at Missouri (12-3, 1-1) at 8 p.m. today, took a punch to the gut on Sunday after their furious comeback fell short in an 85-70 loss to No. 5 Tennessee. Georgia cut Tennessee’s lead to six points with just more than a minute to play after rallying back from a 21-point deficit, but the Lady Volunteers were able to sink 9 of 10 free throws down the final stretch to seal the victory.

“I think that when we get down, people kind of let up a little bit,” guard Erika Ford said. “But I think we need to keep fighting and keep going because there’s always a lot of time left in the game.”

Coach Andy Landers said “it’s not a one-person job” to get the team back on a winning track. He carefully searched for his words when assessing his team’s play as of late.

“From an attitude standpoint, we don’t have a bad attitude, but we’ve got to have a competitive attitude,” he said.

Landers said he senses some of his players taking shortcuts in practice and did so over the winter break. He said he combats it by calling them out, disciplining them and making them run through a drill more than once.

“But how many times they go is not the problem — the fact that they didn’t want to go is the problem,” Landers said.

Missouri, which is coming off a 69-66 loss to Arkansas on Sunday, and Georgia have played just four times with the Lady Bulldogs owning at 3-1 edge in the series. Miller said a road win over Missouri would act as a springboard to Sunday’s home game against Texas A&M.

“Road wins are always really good, especially playing at someone else’s place and playing in a hostile crowd, just coming out on top —  that’s a really good feeling,” Miller said. “So I’m hoping that we can get our scouting together and go over there and win.”

The 1992-93 Lady Bulldogs that opened conference play 0-2 entered the SEC tournament at 17-11 and finished runner-up after playing two top-ranked teams in three days. They knocked off Arkansas, Tennessee (then-No. 1) and Alabama before losing to the new No. 1 team, Vanderbilt, in the final. The Lady Bulldogs went on to post a 21-13 record, advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament before being eliminated by Stanford.

Landers, who said the team’s problems are “totally and absolutely changeable,” hopes the Lady Bulldogs don’t dig themselves into a deeper hole.

“For a lot of teams, that (0-2 record) would really light a fire under it,” Landers said. “You’d want to get the 0 off of the record, but you’ve got to want to compete to do that. There’s other teams at 0-2 that probably throw pity-parties. We’ll find out Thursday night which one we are.”

No. 25 Georgia at Missouri

When/where: today at 8 p.m./Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo.

Radio: AM 960 The Ref in Athens; 103.7 FM from Gainesville

Records: Georgia is 12-3 overall, 0-2 in SEC. Missouri is 12-3 overall, 1-1 in SEC.

Last time out: Georgia has dropped its last two games and started out 0-2 in conference play for the first time since the 1992-93 season. The Lady Bulldogs fell to Tennessee 85-70 on Sunday. The Lady Tigers dropped a home game on Sunday, losing to Arkansas 69-66.  

The last time they met: Then-No. 10 Georgia defeated Missouri 77-46 on Jan. 10, 2013. The Lady Bulldogs own a 3-1 record against the Lady Tigers.

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