<
>

Georgia heading to its 14th Sweet 16

3/22/2004

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Christi Thomas' foul trouble kept Georgia
from rolling to another blowout win. How she played when she was in
the game was still enough to get the Bulldogs to the regional
semifinals.

Thomas had 19 points and 12 rebounds in 27 foul-plagued minutes
to lead Georgia to an 85-71 victory Monday night over TCU in the
second round of the NCAA tournament.

The third-seeded Bulldogs (24-9) advanced to the round of 16 for
the 14th time in 21 NCAA tournament appearances. Georgia will face
Villanova or Purdue in the West Regional in Seattle.

TCU (25-7) was denied a shot at setting a school record for wins
in a season and lost in the second round for the fourth straight
year. Sandora Irvin led the sixth-seeded Lady Frogs with 20 points
and 10 rebounds, and Tiffany Evans had 22 points.

The Lady Frogs sliced a 21-point deficit to eight when Thomas
fouled out late in the second half. It took some sharp shooting
late and pressure defense by her teammates to bail out the
Bulldogs.

Jessica Pierce added 18 points, and Janese Hardrick and Sherill
Baker scored 14 points apiece for Georgia.

"We're playing defense the way we want to play defense and, for
the most part, we're being effective with it," said Georgia coach
Andy Landers. "I'm reasonably pleased with the way we're playing
both inside and out."

Landers has 21 tournament appearances, the most by a coach
without a national title.

TCU's three previous second-round exits came on the home courts
of Louisiana Tech, Duke and Connecticut. It was the end of an
emotional week for the Lady Frogs after coach Jeff Mittie was
arrested for suspicion of drunken driving.

TCU had hoped the neutral site would help. Instead, it's left
wondering what it will take to get over the hump and into the
regionals.

"You knock on the door and you need to knock it in and get
there," Mittie said. "I think we're closer, but it is those
little plays that we're not making right now."

The 6-foot-5 Thomas controlled the lane with a three-inch
difference on the tallest Lady Frog. She scored 10 early in the
second half to help Georgia build a 19-point lead, though her
aggressiveness inside caused an early exit.

Instead of dominating the rest of the game and helping the
Bulldogs cruise to any easy win, Thomas picked up four quick fouls
in the second half and fouled out with 9:26 left, changing the
tempo for TCU.

"We knew at some point they were going to make a run at us and
it just so happened that the time they made the run was the time I
went out," Thomas said. "It was the longest 9 minutes of my life.
I thought I was going to have a heart attack, I was grabbing shirts
and everything. This team always ends up on top."

With Thomas out, the Lady Frogs went on a 10-0 run, getting a
basket and two free throws from Niki Newton and consecutive
3-pointers from Evans. Instead of slowing down the offense, the
Bulldogs ran and forced the ball inside, taking some poor shots and
committing a couple of turnovers.

"About five times in a row we were hurried, rushed and weren't
really good offensively," Landers said. "Other than those
possessions, I was pretty pleased with our offense."

Still, the Bulldogs shot 47 percent and controlled the pace with
an attacking, fast-breaking offense that led to 50 points in the
paint. Georgia forced 15 turnovers and pushed Irvin, the niece of
former NFL star Michael Irvin, out of her comfort zone inside and
to the perimeter.

Irvin shot 7-for-14, but the Lady Frogs were never able to have
a consistent presence in the lane.

TCU got as close as 77-68 after an Irvin 3-pointer with 2:18
remaining, but Georgia scored five straight points to seal the win
and give the Lady Frogs another subregional loss.