0

WOMEN'S NCAA TOURNAMENT: FSU, UGA face off tonight in Auburn Regional with trip to Sweet 16 on line

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

AUBURN, Ala. -- Georgia coach Andy Landers didn't know where to begin when asked about Cierra Bravard, Florida State's 6-foot-4 post puzzle his Bulldogs are charged with trying to solve in the second round of the NCAA Tournament tonight.

Landers smiled. He chuckled to himself. He weighed his words for nearly 10 seconds before responding.

"She's big," he said. "She's skilled. She has great size and great skills. But you can have great size and great skills and not be hard to guard if you never ever got the ball. It'd be easy peasy.

"But she's got teammates that get her the ball. That makes her hard to guard. We could keep her from scoring if they never threw her the ball."

Bravard, whose third-seeded Seminoles (24-7) take on No. 6 Georgia (22-10) this evening in the Auburn Arena, does indeed have teammates that get her the ball.

The first-team All-ACC performer tallied 23 points and 13 rebounds against Samford in the first round Sunday, making 9 of 14 shots and controlling the paint.

Georgia got a little bit of prep work in against Middle Tennessee State's 6-1 Ebony Rowe in the first round, holding her to 10 points on 5-for-13 shooting.

The Bulldogs' Jasmine Hassell, who will shoulder the bulk of the responsibility in guarding Bravard, said the Seminoles' post presents a different challenge.

"She's a little bit bigger than me," said the 6-2 Hassell. "Just keeping her off the block, keeping her out of her comfort zone will be a big part."

Georgia has its own strength in the post, with Hassell and 6-2 senior Porsha Phillips, who combined for 21 points and 19 rebounds against Middle Tennessee on Sunday.

Bravard, who was primarily a backup last season, has emerged to average 14.9 points and 7.7 rebounds a game this year, notching nine double-doubles.

Phillips, a first-team All-SEC selection, has her in the double-double department after getting No. 15 with 10 points and 14 rebounds against Middle Tennessee. She averages 11.1 points and 10.9 rebounds a game.

"She's so athletic and so determined," Seminoles coach Sue Semrau said. "Anyone that averages double-figure rebounds is somebody that works at it. They don't just come to her. She's not so wide and strong. She just works really hard and goes after it."

Phillips said her main defensive responsibility will be Natasha Howard, the Seminoles' 6-3 freshman forward who averages 10.8 points per game and can take defenders off the dribble.

But she also acknowledged a good part of her game will consist of collapsing to help Hassell on Bravard down low.

"I'm going to help out a lot," Phillips said. "Hassell probably needs to be aggressive and bump Cierra around a little bit down low."

That's the sort of thing that might have rattled Bravard in her first two years with the Seminoles.

But, with all the double- and triple-teams she's drawn over the course of the season, she said she's ready for it.

"I just kind of got to play how I play and not so much worry about what they're like," Bravard said. "Just kind of keep my head straight, not get frustrated and just play."

With all the attention focused on Bravard, Landers cautioned against taking the rest of the Seminoles for granted.

After all, they do have three more players -- guards Courtney Ward (12.1) and Alexa Deluzio (12.0), along with Howard -- averaging in double figures.

"They got other players?" Landers joked. "Like that kid out top (Ward) who's as good as anybody? We almost forgot about her. And Deluzio on the wing, and the other wing (Christian Hunnicutt), who's the best passer of the group in terms of minutes played and touches. And you've got Howard, who just has scary skills.

"They're not hurting."