Georgia spent last weekend playing in the mile-high altitude of New Mexico.
Coming back home and playing much closer to sea level felt like a breath of fresh air as the Lady Bulldogs blew out Furman 83-47 on Wednesday at Stegeman Coliseum.
“We weren’t worried about coming out sluggish at all,” Georgia guard Khaalidah Miller said. “Because if we could play in New Mexico at that altitude, then we can play here. As soon as we came into Stegeman to practice before this game, I just started inhaling the air. I just felt like I could breath so much better than I did in New Mexico. Lord knows it was so hard to get that second wind out there.”
Last weekend, Georgia left home for the first time this season and played two games in the New Mexico Thanksgiving Tournament in Albuquerque, N.M., which is about 5,300 feet in elevation. Georgia won both games in blowouts, beating Saint Bonaventure 84-48 and host New Mexico 72-42.
“Coming from that altitude to coming back here, if anything we had a lot more energy,” Georgia guard Jasmine James said. “After playing out there, sluggishness might have been a factor out there. But here, just being able to breathe and not have to struggle for oxygen, that was a huge help coming out tonight. It’s good to be able to play hard and know you’re going to be able to breathe.”
Miller had a hot second half and led No. 8 Georgia (8-0) with 17 points, including 12 in the second half. Jasmine James added 15 points, Erika Ford had 14 points and Anne Marie Armstrong had 12 points and seven rebounds. Brittany Hodges led Furman (3-2) with 15 points and Teshia Griswold added 14 points.
“I thought Khaalidah played well tonight,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “I thought she played well in the first half, too. She went out and snagged a couple of offensive rebounds as soon as she got on the floor. I thought she ran the floor well and pushed the ball well and shot the ball well. I thought she played well.”
Miller hit 7 of 16 from the field, including 3 of 8 from the 3-point line. She grabbed six rebounds and played a team-high 30 minutes.
“Coach just told us to keep running out and J.J. (Jasmine James) will find us and she found us every time,” Miller said. “We just tried to to keep running out and getting easy points.”
Defense set the pace for the Lady Bulldogs as they forced 28 turnovers that turned into 36 points Georgia also held Furman to 19 of 52 (36.5 percent) field-goal shooting.
“Because the air is so thin in New Mexico, I thought we’d come back in much better shape than we went out there in,” Ford said. “I knew we were used to playing at home. We’d played at home in every game before going out there. We’ve been pretty disruptive on defense all year. That’s what we do. When we get deflection after deflection and steal after steal and we have as many fastbreak layups as we did, we know we’ve got a team on the run.”
Georgia shook off some early jitters and raced to a 45-28 halftime lead.
The Lady Bulldogs trailed Furman 11-7 when Brittany Hodges hit a layup 16:26 left in the first half.
Georgia went on an 11-2 run as James hit a pair of layups. A 3-pointer by Miller gave Georgia a 23-13 lead with 11:02 left in the first half.
“We had to play our freshmen with other players being hurt,” Furman coach Jackie Carson said. “Holli (Wilkins) came in and did a great job, though. This is one of those games when you have such a young team, you’re going to take a couple of hits on the head. Georgia did a good job of diffusing our energy and we just didn’t bounce back the way we should.”
Furman made a run at the Lady Bulldogs to start the second half. A 3-pointer by Erica Norwood pulled Furman within 47-35 early in the second half. But Georgia went on a 23-8 run to take a 70-43 lead with about eight minutes left.
Furman’s Holli Wilkins is the sister of former Georgia guard Damien Wilkins and the niece of former Georgia forward Dominique Wilkins. She scored nine points and had three rebounds in 30 minutes against Georgia on Wednesday. She made her first career start in place of injured Sarah Durdaller. Wilkins along with Georgia forwards Kaelyn Causwell and Armstrong are graduates of Wesleyan.
“As far as my brother (Damien) playing here, we’ve always been really attached to the school,” Wilkins said. “My uncle (Dominique) played here before him. My whole family loves UGA, but it was also a great experience to come back and play against Anne Marie (Armstrong) and Kaelyn (Causwell) again. It was really nice to be able to experience that. I feel like that is so rare that people get to separate and come back again.”
NOTES: All six of Ford’s rebounds were on the offensive end. … Freshman Marjorie Butler led Georgia with five assists. … Georgia had 26 offensive rebounds that became 20 points. Georgia’s bench outscored Furman’s 42-5. … Furman played without injured forward Sarah Durdaller who is the Paladins’ No. 2 scorer at 15.5 points a game.