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UGA women have 'that look' again

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ATHENS -- Georgia played like a championship contender when it won its first 16 games this season and moved to No. 6 in the nation.

Then came injuries to the team's two seniors -- point guard Ashley Houts and 6-foot-5 center Angel Robinson.

Coach Andy Landers said Wednesday the injuries created a chain reaction of missed shots and defensive breakdowns. Georgia suffered six losses in eight games and tumbled to the bottom of the AP's Top 25 while resembling the team that lost in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament.

The Lady Bulldogs (25-8) have recovered at the most important time of the year to win five of six.

And that includes NCAA tournament wins over Tulane and Oklahoma State last week in Tempe, Ariz.

Georgia is headed west again to Sacramento, Calif., to play No. 1 seed Stanford (33-1) on Saturday.

Landers said he believes his team has regained the confidence it showed in the 16-0 start.

"All I can tell you is that last weekend I told the kids we looked like when we were running the 16-game streak," Landers said. "We were playing hard. We were playing together. We were playing well on the defensive end. We had that look back."

Houts, Georgia's leader in scoring, assists and steals, said the Lady Bulldogs "grew up" during the "little rough patch" of the season.

"It taught us a lot and we matured as a team," said Houts, who had 22 points in the win over Tulane. "I think the point we're at now, we know what's on the line."

This is Georgia's 18th trip to the round of 16 in 27 NCAA tournament appearances with Landers. Georgia has advanced to five Final Fours, the last coming in 1999, and has never won a national championship.

Stanford, which lost by 12 points at No. 1 Connecticut on Dec. 23 in its only loss, has a 24-game winning streak, including two NCAA tournament wins by a combined margin of 61 points.

Georgia was pushed to overtime in its 74-71 second-round win over Oklahoma State after beating Tulane by only five points in the first round.

Georgia already has one win over a No. 1 seed. It was the only Southeastern Conference team to beat Tennessee.

"That gives you a confidence and an indication of the level that you're capable of playing on," Landers said.

Robinson said Georgia "just picked up where we left off on that 16-0 feeling."

"I think we're playing better, playing harder and I think we're playing more as a team," Robinson said.

Robinson's scoring high for the season was only 12 points before she averaged 17 points and 14 rebounds in the first two rounds of the tournament.

"That's the best I've seen her play this season," Houts said.

"She was excellent," Landers said. "Rebounded the ball, shot the ball, scored inside, defended well. She was excellent. Angel had a great weekend.

"It's critical that we have that kind of play in the post. I'm not going to lay it all on Angel. Regardless of who's playing, we've got to have that kind of play."

Robinson played an average of 39 minutes. Landers said he expects freshman Jasmine Hassell to play more behind Robinson against Stanford.

Another freshman, starting guard Jasmine James, had a career-high 27 points with 10 rebounds against Oklahoma State.

James said the NCAA Sweet 16 "is something you watch as a little kid and you dream of and you never think it's going to be you."

Before the late-season recovery, few believed it would be Georgia.