Georgia’s Andy Landers has had more success against Tennessee than any other coach.
Not this season.
His Lady Bulldogs became fourth-ranked Tennessee’s latest victim as they fell 82-58 in a Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinal on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.
In his 32nd year at Georgia and 36th overall, Landers has collected 15 wins against Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols. But the Lady Bulldogs were no match in two meetings this year.
They suffered a 77-44 road loss less than two weeks ago in which they shot a dismal 25.8 percent. On Saturday, Georgia (21-10) played better, but an 0-for-14 drought to begin the game turned out to be too much to overcome.
“There’s not a whole lot you can say other than they whipped us,” Landers said. “We, for much of the day, did some of what we needed to do. But when you have breakdowns doing what you need to do to be successful against a team as good as Tennessee, you pay for those.”
After falling behind 16-2, Khaalidah Miller drained a 3-pointer for the Lady Bulldogs’ first basket from the field with 9:52 remaining in the first half. Georgia, the fourth seed, cut the deficit to seven points as Tennessee experienced a seven-minute scoring drought.
The top-seeded Lady Vols (30-2) eventually warmed up, though. Angie Bjorklund scored five straight points and sparked a 14-4 run for a 17-point lead with 3:03 to play before halftime. Georgia cut it to 10 points early in the second half but Meighan Simmons answered with a 3-pointer and jumper on consecutive possessions. Tennessee pushed the lead to 27 in the second half and cruised to its 20th SEC tournament championship game.
The Lady Vols will play either Kentucky or Vanderbilt at 4:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2.
“I think we’re at a level where each and every game we learn something different about ourselves, along with the team,” junior forward Glory Johnson said. “It might not look like it, but we are messing up, too. We’ll just make up for it. We have each other’s back. ... As long as we keep communicating, it keeps us focused and making sure that we’re doing the right thing the next play.”
Simmons, the SEC Freshman of the Year, led the Volunteers with 18 points and five assists. Johnson added 14 points and nine rebounds and Bjorklund had 10 points. Jasmine Hassell scored 20 points for Georgia, which shot 33.3 percent for the game after just 23.1 percent in the first half.
The Lady Vols have won 21 in a row and locked up their 20th 30-win season. They are one win away from not only their 15th tournament title but from wrapping up a perfect SEC season. The defending tournament champs have won 32 straight league games, including 18 this season.
“I think it is something special,” Summitt said. “It came from this team. The coaches can only do so much. But [the players are] the ones that said, ‘We’re going to get it done.’”