By the Associated Press
ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia welcomed Missouri to the Southeastern Conference with waves of substitutions.
The 10th-ranked Lady Bulldogs used a two-unit system in the first half en route to a 77-46 rout in the Tigers’ first SEC game Thursday night.
Throughout the opening half, Georgia coach Andy Landers substituted five at a time and built a 45-23 lead at the break.
“You remember back earlier in the year when we did it, and it always paid good dividends,” Landers said. “Those guys came in and affected the way the game was being played. After watching today in the shoot-around, our second group was better in preparations than our first group.”
Senior guard Jasmine James led Georgia (13-1, 1-0 SEC) with 16 points and six steals. The Lady Dogs had 14 steals as a team and scored 24 points off of 21 Tigers turnovers.
“Not only did we score a lot of points off turnovers,” Landers said, “we had a lot of slaps and disruptions. Mentally that is going to wear on you.”
Bri Kulas scored 14 points and Morgan Eye added 13 for Missouri (11-4, 0-1).
“I thought at times we showed the poise that we needed,” Tigers coach Robin Pingeton said. “At other times we got caught up in our aggressiveness.”
Missouri entered the game as the nation’s most prolific 3-point shooting team, averaging 10 per game. The Tigers were just 5 for 22 against the Lady Dogs.
Georgia’s pressure defense limited the Tigers to 3-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes, and two of those came in the final 1:42.
The Lady Dogs pushed the ball on the other end, getting 10 points in the first half from James to build a 45-23 at the break.
Missouri got two baskets by forward Liz Smith to start a 7-0 run at the start of the second half to cut into Georgia’s lead.
However, when Meredith Hempe came off the bench, the first solo substitution of the game for Georgia, she hit a 3-pointer and sank a put-back to boost the lead to a 54-32 lead with 14:27 to go.
James pushed the margin to 29 when she stole the inbounds pass after a free throw by Tiaria Griffin and scored on a quick layup, making it 73-44 with 6:20 remaining.
“I was a little lucky on that one,” James said. “Let’s just say that I was in the right place at the right time.”
Georgia led from the start. It was a tenuous 11-9 lead when Landers made his first 5-for-5 substitution with 14:22 to go in the half. The reserves started a 16-2 run, with 3-pointers by Marjorie Butler, Griffin and Krista Donald.
The starters finished off the run, with Miller capping it with two transition baskets to extend the lead to 29-13.
Georgia’s biggest lead of the first half came with 1:32 to go when Miller hit Georgia’s sixth three of the first half to make it 45-20 only 17 seconds before the half.
“I understand the strength of the SEC, and a program like Georgia with such great tradition,” Pingeton said. “Coach Landers has won a lot of games this year and for many years. We have a young team, and we will have to grow up in a hurry in this league.
“We’ll have some bumps in the road and challenges along the way. We will stay the course and take it day by day.”
Missouri plays Auburn on Sunday, Jan. 6 at 2 p.m. at Mizzou Arena. This will be the Tigers’ SEC home opener.