Sunday, January 29, 2012

No. 18 Georgia women fall to No. 7 Lady Vols

ATHENS, Ga. — A strong finish to the first half seemed to leave momentum with Georgia against Tennessee.

That momentum quickly vanished after halftime.

Shekinna Stricklen had 24 points, including six in Tennessee’s 11-0 run to open the second half, and the No. 7 Lady Vols beat No. 17 Georgia 67-50 on Sunday for their second win over the Lady Bulldogs this month.

Georgia scored the final four points of the first half to cut Tennessee’s lead to 29-28 at halftime. A sellout crowd cheered as the Lady Bulldogs pumped their fists on the way off the court.

The upbeat mood quickly soured as Georgia missed its first five shots from the field in the half.

“It seemed like we went back out all of a sudden with no energy,” said Georgia coach Andy Landers.

“Defensively, I thought we stood around for the first two minutes of the second half. I didn’t see the intensity that I would have liked to have seen. We broke down and they got some driving, wide-open layups.”

Meighan Simmons opened the second half with a 3-pointer to spark the Lady Vols’ 11-0 run. Stricklen followed the 3-pointer by scoring on a drive and had a steal and basket later in the 11-0 run.

“They came out and hit some easy buckets which allowed them to get going,” said Georgia’s Meredith Mitchell. “We had some good shots. We just couldn’t knock them down.

“They built the lead a little bit and that got their confidence going and it swung the momentum to their side because at the end of the half we definitely had the momentum.”

The Lady Vols kept the lead in double figures the remainder of the game.

Mitchell had 13 points and Jasmine Hassell had 11 for Georgia, which has lost consecutive games and three of its last four.

Georgia (16-6, 5-4 Southeastern Conference) made only 5 of 25 shots (20 percent) from the field in the second half and made a season-low 28.8 percent of its shots (17 of 59) for the game.

“The readiness was missing,” Landers said, adding his players were “mentally not in it.”

Jasmine James, a preseason All-SEC pick and Georgia’s point guard, missed her fourth straight game with a sprained right knee.

Landers said James is “very close” to returning.

“We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to get her well,” Landers said. “We need her. She’s important.”

Stricklen had seven rebounds, two steals and two assists for Tennessee (16-5, 7-1).

Ariel Massengale had 16 points, including 13 in the second half, for the Lady Vols.

Following a lopsided 72-44 loss at No. 2 Notre Dame on Monday, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt juggled her lineup in Thursday’s 86-56 win at Alabama. Stricklen, who had a streak of 121 consecutive starts, the longest in the nation, end earlier this month due to an injury, didn’t start against Alabama even though she was available.

Stricklen said she understood the message from Summitt and her staff.

“It was a challenge,” said Stricklen, a senior who started against Georgia. “I think it was a good decision by the coaches. I haven’t been playing to my ability and if I’m not playing to my ability I shouldn’t start. That’s what they did and I agreed with them.

“I wasn’t mad. I stayed positive and I was cheering on my team. This is not about me. It’s whatever best for the team.”

Tennessee associate head coach Holly Warlick said the Lady Vols recovered from the loss at Notre Dame.

“We had a tough week,” Warlick said. “We played three games in seven days. They responded. We pushed them in practice and I’m proud of the way they responded.”

Forward Glory Johnson, who 22 points and 13 rebounds in Tennessee’s 80-51 home win over Georgia on Jan. 5, had five points and a team-leading eight rebounds as the Lady Vols completed the sweep of the regular-season series.

Tennessee, which committed a season-low eight turnovers against Alabama, had 19 turnovers, including 12 in the first half.

The Lady Vols led 53-37 before Georgia pulled to within 10 at 53-43. Massengale answered with a 3-pointer.

Georgia battled foul problems late in the game. Mitchell was called for her fifth with 1:19 remaining.

Attendance was 10,523, Georgia’s fifth sellout in school history and first since Jan. 14, 2007 against Tennessee.

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