Georgia has gotten by the last couple of seasons with a bench about as deep as the average bathroom sink.
But so far this season the Lady Bulldogs have been swimming in a wealth of substitutes who can do more than just give the front-line a breather, but also make a major impact on the game.
“I think it’s going to help us out a lot,” Georgia guard Jasmine James said. “I don’t think there’s a huge concern that you have people that are just worn out because of all the substitutions. We’ve been able to get everybody a lot of rest. As we continue to go throughout the season, we’ll be able to constantly run players in and run players out. The freshmen have gotten a lot of experience and the more experienced players have been able to get some of the rust off so I think it’s been great.”
Georgia (5-0) will go on its first road trip of the season when it travels to the New Mexico Thanksgiving Tournament starting Friday against St. Bonaventure (3-1). Tipoff is at 5:30 p.m. Eastern in The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. Georgia will play either New Mexico (3-0) or North Texas (0-3) on Saturday.
Georgia has started the season with a schedule that looked like it was modeled after the NBA. The Lady Bulldogs have played five games in 10 days culminating in a 94-57 win against Savannah State on Tuesday that was Landers’ 800th career victory at Georgia.
“We’re not used to playing back-to-back-to-back games like that,” Georgia forward Jasmine Hassell said. “This is the first time we’ve done that since I’ve been here. But actually it’s fun. It’s allowed us to work on things and get better. Coach has been running a (substitution) system where it’s five in and five out. We’re fine. I don’t think we’re tired. He keeps us fresh.”
Nobody on the active roster has averaged more than 23.6 minutes or less than 10.0 minutes in the first five games. That is a departure from the recent past when Landers only had between six and eight healthy bodies on the team for long stretches.
“This feels unbelievable,” Landers said. “It’s terrific, it’s great. Not only do we send people out there but they go out there and perform and they’re efficient. It’s a nice change. It’s very nice.”
The key to Georgia’s depth has been the quick development of its freshman class. Landers brought in five newcomers this season and all have contributed in the early going which has enabled him to send in substitutes four and five at a time.
“We’ve been getting a lot of rest as far as him (Andy Landers) getting a lot of subs in and everything,” Georgia guard Khaalidah Miller said. “We’re a little tired because we’ve been practicing every day when we had an off day. We’re tired of course but I expect that we’ll be able to push through it because we’ve played long before.”
Guard Shacobia Barbee has started all five games and forward Merritt Hempe has started the last three. On Tuesday guard Tiaria Griffin scored a career-high 15 points.
“It’s definitely different but it definitely gives you a sigh of relief,” James said. “You can go out there during the time period that you’re out there and really give all you’ve got. If I go out there for those four or five minutes I know that it’s okay because there’s somebody who can come in and relieve me.”
The freshmen have developed quickly enough for Landers to experiment with the lineups. The last games he has used senior Anne Marie Armstrong and Miller off of the bench but still playing the same number of minutes as the starters.
“It’s different from what we’re used to, but I like it,” Hassell said. “It’s nice to look over there and see four or five players ready to come in when you get tired.”
New Mexico Thanksgiving Tournament
Georgia vs. St. Bonaventure
When: 5:30 p.m. Eastern Friday.
Where: The Pit, Albuquerque, N.M.
Saturday’s game: Georgia will play either New Mexico (3-0) or North Texas (0-3) in the second round. The consolation game is at 7 p.m. Eastern at The Pit followed by the championship game.
Radio: WRFC 960-AM.
Records: Georgia is 5-0, St. Bonaventure is 3-1.
Rankings: Georgia is No. 8, St. Bonaventure is unranked.
Probable starting lineups
St. Bonaventure: F Doris Ortega (Jr., 5-10, 11.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg); G CeCe Dixon (Jr., 5-3, 8.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg); G Ashley Zahn (Jr., 5-10, 7.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg); G Jordan McGee (Sr., 5-10, 3.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg); G Alaina Walker (Sr., 5-9, 10.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg).
Georgia: G Jasmine James (Sr., 5-9, 9.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg); G Khaalidah Miller (Jr., 5-9, 5.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg); G Shacobia Barbee (Fr., 5-10, 4.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg); F Anne Marie Armstrong (Sr., 6-3, 6.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg); Jasmine Hassell (Sr., 6-2, 12.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg).
Series record: Georgia and St. Bonaventure have never played.
Last meeting: Georgia and St. Bonaventure have never played.
Season at a glance: Georgia has won five straight to start the season and beat Savannah State 94-57 on Tuesday for Andy Landers’ 800th career victory at Georgia. St. Bonaventure won its first three but lost 52-49 at Fairfield on Tuesday.
Noteworthy: This is Georgia’s first game away from Stegeman Coliseum this season. The Lady Bulldogs started by playing five games in 10 days. … Freshman guard Tiaria Griffin scored a career-high 15 points against Savannah State on Tuesday. … Tamika Willis scored a season-high nine points with five rebounds on Tuesday. … Georgia out-rebounded Savannah State 44-2 and had 23 offensive boards. … Georgia forced 25 steals against Savannah State, led by four from Anne Marie Armstrong. … St. Bonaventure guard Jordan McGee should have a large fan base at The Pit because she’s originally from Albuquerque. … St. Bonaventure is shooting 15 of 62 (24.2 percent) from the 3-point line this season.