Originally created 03/31/04

Lady Dogs miss free throws, miss Final Four



ATHENS, Ga. -- On what proved to be the final possession of Georgia's season, Coach Andy Landers called for a necktie play.

As it turned out, Georgia was not yet ready to dress up for the Final Four.

LSU's Temeka Johnson tied up Janese Hardrick, robbing the Lady Bulldogs of a last-second shot attempt in Georgia's 62-20 Elite Eight loss in Seattle late Monday night.

After crossing the half-court line, Hardrick bumped with Johnson, dropped to her knees and lost control of the ball. No foul was called, and when LSU's Wendlyn Jones came up with the loose ball as the final horn sounded, Georgia's season was over.

"We were down two, so I just tried to go for the easy basket and go for the two," Hardrick said. "I just lost my footing and lost the ball."

Georgia caught a redeye flight from Seattle after the game and arrived in Athens about 8 a.m. Tuesday, leaving the players and staff to push aside Final Four dreams while attempting to catch up on their sleep.

Landers said his team played well enough on defense to have earned the sixth Final Four berth in Georgia history. Landers has the most NCAA tournament wins (41) of any coach who has not won a national championship. With Landers, Georgia is 5-5 in Elite Eight games.

Georgia lost Monday night while making only seven of 13 free-throw attempts in the second half.

"I did not sense our kids get tight, I did not sense us get nervous," Landers said. "Obviously when they missed their free throws I thought something was probably wrong, because we just do not do that very often. But I did not sense anxiousness."

Entering the game, Georgia had won 12 of its last 16 games, a streak that began in January with an 80-74 victory over LSU in Athens. Before that turnaround, Georgia had lost three straight Southeastern Conference games and was tumbling toward the bottom of the Top 25.

The highlight of Georgia's surge was an upset win over Tennessee in the SEC tournament semifinals. Even before the win over Tennessee, Landers said he believed his team had the potential to contend for a national championship.

"I can honestly say that I've always felt like we could play to this point and beyond actually," Landers said. "I've never given up on that.

"The last two or three weeks, this basketball team has played as good as any in the country, and I'm really, really proud of them. They have a lot to be proud of," he said.

Christi Thomas led Georgia (25-10) with 19 points, but she missed four of five free throws in the final five minutes. Georgia's poor free-throw shooting helped LSU outscore the Lady Bulldogs 8-1 in the final three minutes.

Before the late slump, Thomas had made 19 consecutive free throws in the postseason, including the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

"We just couldn't get it done," said Thomas when asked about the last five minutes of the game. "Over the course of a game, one team makes a run, the other team fights back and that's what happened. It went back and forth all day."

Georgia struggled to defend LSU standout guard Seimone Augustus, who scored a game-high 29 points, matching the career high she set against Texas Saturday night.

Landers said 5-foot-7 Sherill Baker and 5-foot-8 Alexis Kendrick were "really, really good" in defending Augustus, but neither was a good match for the 6-foot-1 standout.

"We knew that we had a matchup problem with Augustus," Landers said. "We just don't have a big guard that can affect her the way that I think she needs to be affected, yet our kids did a great job on her. They were right there. They were doing everything that they could do.

"(Augustus) is just very good and about four or five inches taller than we are."