March 4, 2004
By ELIZABETH A. DAVIS
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Georgia trailed by four points after the opening five minutes. The Lady Bulldogs then settled down and took over.
Alexis Kendrick scored 20 points and Jessica Pierce added 16 in No. 20 Georgia’s 73-42 win Thursday night over South Carolina in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
The fifth-seeded Lady Bulldogs (20-9) were inconsistent on offense throughout the season. But they dominated the Gamecocks (10-18).
Georgia advanced to play fourth-seeded Florida in the quarterfinals on Friday. The victory gave Bulldogs coach Andy Landers at least 20 wins for the 20th time in his 25-year tenure.
The Lady Dogs were down 6-2 five minutes into the game, but quickly went ahead and never let up.
“The first four or five minutes were a little bit unsettling. But then we hit a couple of shots,” Landers said. “From there, I thought things went really well.”
South Carolina, the No. 12 seed, scored the first five points of the second half to cut the deficit to 37-24. But the Gamecocks got no closer thereafter.
Georgia responded with a 14-0 run that included 12 points by Kendrick on three 3-pointers and a three-point play. That put the Lady Dogs ahead by 27 points.
South Carolina’s Cristina Ciocan ended the scoreless stretch with a 3 with 13:36 to go. But Georgia quickly pushed the margin to 30 points with 8:35 to go.
Janese Hardwick added 11 points for the Lady Dogs, who handed the Gamecocks their worst loss of the season.
South Carolina was led Iva Sliskovic with 13 points.
“They were just awesome,” Gamecocks coach Susan Walvius said. “There was no difference in their play from the opening tip to the end of the basketball game. That’s the way at South Carolina we want to be playing next year at this time.”
The loss ended a disappointing season for the Gamecocks, who won more than 20 games and went to the NCAA tournament in each of the previous two seasons. But South Carolina couldn’t overcome its youth on a roster that included six freshmen.
“I think this is one of the toughest seasons that I’ve had as a coach. We’ve had a really young basketball team,” Walvius said.
Georgia was ahead 37-19 at halftime after two 11-0 runs.
The Lady Dogs were 16-of-32 from the floor in the first half while the Gamecocks were 7-of-24.
The Lady Dogs finished 20-of-59 from the field, and South Carolina improved a little to 16-of-50.
Pierce scored all of her points in the first half on 7-of-8 shooting.
“We just really came out there and did what we had to do. We just had a really good first half. We came out focused,” Pierce said.
The Lady Dogs took the lead on her basket with 13:23 to go in the first half, and she finished the first run with another basket and putback that extended the advantage to seven points.
The Gamecocks cut it to four points, but couldn’t maintain a rally. Sherill Baker got a steal from Ciocan and cruised to the basket for an easy layup that started the second 11-0 run.
Hardwick hit a 3, then Pierce had a 3 and three-point play that capped it and put Georgia ahead 28-13 with 4:01 remaining in the first half.