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Saturday, July 20, 2019

SECrets: Georgia Gets Back on Track Led by Anne Marie Armstrong, a Long, Lean Killer Inside

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Photo Caption: Georgia’s Anne Marie Armstrong, a 6-3 junior wing out of the Wesleyan School in Norcross, Ga., ranks high on the Southeastern Conference leaderboard in seven statistical categories: Scoring (No. 15—11.8 ppg); rebounding (No. 14—6.0 rbg), including defensive rebounding (No. 8—4.3 drbg); field-goal percentage (No. 13 - 45.4%); assists (No. 7—3.3 apg); steals (No. 5—2.4 spg); blocks (No. 13—1.0 bpg); and assist-to-turnover ratio (No. 8—1.3:1).

Photo Credit: Courtesy Georgia Sports Communications/Daniel Shirey

By Mike Siroky

For Georgia junior Anne Marie Armstrong, the expectations have met reality.

Coming in to play for a legendary coach and for one of the best teams in the best conference in America, she sort of knew what to expect.

Coach Andy Landers raised those expectations.

The work and discipline of becoming the only player to make the Southeastern Conference leaderboard in seven skill categories shows how far she’s come.

And she knows it is the mental game, more than the physical, that will determine how far she will go.

As an example, take the rare home loss, to Kentucky, this season.

With limited reserves available due to injuries, Armstrong did not come out of the game when got her third, then fourth, foul in the first half of a competitive game. And she lasted until there were but 12 seconds left. All five starters played career-high minutes for a non-overtime game
The mental game.

“You have to adjust,” she said. “Each game, you don’t know what the challenge will be. You might have to be more conservative with the way you play, don’t go for steals and not really being physical.

“But we definitely competed.”

This is her time to be the team leader. The graduation of past super stars left Georgia with questions Armstrong has answered this season.

“I really looked up (to her former team mates) and, being an upperclassman, you have to step up.

“I think it’s a combination.”

As a two-sport high school star, with her eyes always on Georgia for college, Armstrong first had to choose between volleyball and hoops. And she may yet go back to volleyball after her basketball eligibility ends.

“I’ve always wanted to compete and I came into college knowing it was the next level,” she said.
“Coach Landers has expectations not only for me, but for the whole team. I had to reach into the back of my head before I knew I could do it.

Landers SidelinesPhoto Caption: Georgia coach Andy Landers stresses the expectations he has for each player as well as for the team as a whole.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Georgia Sports Communications/Daniel Shirey

“In high school, there is not so much of a focus. The whole strength and conditioning program is another level.

“So, while I was familiar with it, I was not nearly as dedicated. I like being tall and lean. Being strong is a a key to my game.”

She is not a loud motivator, preferring to let her game speak for herself, yet, “When I see freshmen put their heads down, it’s my job to say ‘Heads up,’ to let them know we’ve all been there.

“If you play with your head down or get anxious, you’re likely to play worse. So play through it.”

She said Landers will get the best out of his players, through the mix of encouragement and expectations.

“You cannot underestimate focus,” Armstrong said. “Especially on the road; those games are the toughest.

“I wouldn’t say Coach Landers is necessarily putting pressure on us. The players have more respect for him than anything. He is a very humble individual.

“Seeing him and the way he carries himself keeps everyone focused. We play hard.

“We’re definitely at a good place now. With these SEC teams, you have to keep your head in the game. Whatever happens tonight, you have another big game coming up within days.”

Armstrong Defends
Photo Caption: Georgia’s Anne Marie Armstrong understands focus and mental toughness will win most games.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Georgia Sports Communications/Dale Zanine

She has found the home team fans to be another asset.

“The fan support that backs our team as well as backing Coach Landers is important,” she said. “How devoted they are. Having them to cheer us on, their loyalty is important.”

Going forward, Armstrong said she never has really thought about playing at the next level. If it comes, it comes.

But, as a double-major in sports management and journalism, she knows she’ll stay associated with the game, potentially as a sports broadcaster.

“We’ll just work hard and see what’s next,” she said.

Summing Up Last Week’s SEC Results

Games of Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012

  • Mississippi State 51 @ Ole Miss 46
  • No. 25/22 Vanderbilt 47 @ Arkansas 69
  • Alabama 37 @ Florida 61
  • No. 6 Kentucky 69 @ No. 15/14 Georgia 64
  • LSU 56 @ No. 9 Tennessee 65
  • South Carolina 49 @ Auburn 53

Games of Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012

  • Arkansas 72 @ LSU 52
  • Auburn 57 @ Mississippi State 62
  • No. 15/14 Georgia 61 @ Ole Miss 47
  • Florida 52 @ No. 6 Kentucky 57
  • South Carolina 65 @ No. 25/22 Vanderbilt 60 (OT)

Games of Monday, Jan. 23, 2012

  • No. 9 Tennessee 44 @ No. 2 Notre Dame 72*

Games of Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012

  • LSU 71 @ East Tennessee 68*

Note: * indicates non-conference opponent.


Looking Back at the Weekend’s SEC Highlights: Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012

  • No. 15/14 Georgia won at Mississippi on Sunday, 61-47. Armstrong scored 15, with 11 rebounds, seven on offense, four assists and four steals. Three other Georgia players hit double figures in the balanced attack.

    In the frantic start, each Lady Bulldog starter scored a basket for the first 10 points.

    A 43-15 halftime edge—after a 30-2 opening while Ole Miss was still trying to find the gear shift—was gradually eroded, but it was still more than enough for the Bulldogs to coast home for the win.

    Valencia McFarland and Tia Faleru each scored 13 for Ole Miss; Faleru made it a double-doube with 10 boards.

    “It would hard to imagine us playing much better out of the gate than we did today,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “They moved. They passed. They cut. They caught. They shot. They defended. They crashed the boards and rebounded. You really couldn’t ask for your basketball team to play any better than we did in the first half.”

    Two other Georgia players joined Armstrong with double-doubles. Khaalidah Miller scored 13 with 11 rebounds and Meredith Mitchell had 10 and 14. Jasmine Hassell chipped in 11 points. That was without any play from injured teammates Jasmine James and Krista Donald.

    “The thing you don’t have to worry about with this team and the position we’re in with injuries and depth is that they are not going to pace themselves,” Landers said.

    “They’re not going to worry about how they’re going to feel late in the game. They really go out there and pour it all down the funnel from the opening tip. The result of that is that we’ve been able to jump people and get very good early leads. We may lose a little of that as the game goes on but we still play hard and we defend well.”

  • South Carolina continued to put in a bid to make itself the fourth Top 25 team in conference by erasing No. 25/22 Vanderbilt, in overtime, 65-60. Vanderbilt has lost three straight in conference play.

    The Gamecocks, starting no one taller than 6-3, started slowly and couldn’t deal with the inside disadvantage in the early going.

    But La’Keisha Sutton showed her leadership once again, with 20 points, including a career-high four three-pointers, plus six assists. That output inspired her teammates to get into the act, as Aleighsa Welch came off the bench for a near-double-double of 11 points and nine rebounds, plus two blocks, and starting guard Markeshia Grant, a senior, tacked on 10 points and four boards.

    Christina Foggie scored 16 for Vanderbilt and, after a 12-6 Commodores run down the stretch closed the gap to a single basket, tied the game with 56 seconds left on free throws to force the overtime.

    South Carolina took charge in the extra minutes, scoring nine points to Vanderbilt’s four, with five of the nine coming from Sutton, including her fourth trey.

    Foggie was joined in double digits by Tiffany Clark, who put up 15 points, plus seven rebounds, two assists and an impressive four swats, and Jasmine Lister, with 12 points, for Vanderbilt. Holzer was held to just seven points and had a butter-fingered evening with four turnovers. She made up for it, however, with a game-high 15 rebounds, including five off the offensive glass.

    Coming into the game, Vandy held the best three-point shooting record in the nation, but the Gamecocks held the ‘Dores to just three treys on 17 attempts from beyond the arc.

    Meanwhile, led by Sutton, the Gamecocks drained eight-of-22 (36.4 percent) from downtown.

  • Kentucky is the first league team to 18 wins. The ’Cats are also the only unbeaten team in conference play after seven starts, 18-2 overall, and 7-1 in games decided by 10 points or less.

    But a Florida team that refused to go away gave the ‘Cats fits of frustration before ultimately falling, 51-57, in Lexington on Sunday.

    Florida had won two straight, but at home. UK sold out this game by Thursday and the Gators felt the full weight of that crowd.

    Florida held a modest lead for much of the first half, but the Wildcats had knotted the score at 21 by the intermission. A’dia Mathies solved that problem with a layup 12 seconds into the second stanza. Though those were Mathies’ only points for the day (a season low for the star), the ‘Cats never trailed thereafter.

    Kastine Evans, scoreless at halftime, scored eight straight for Kentucky during a 17-2 second-half Wildcats run. Her three-pointer with 15:20 left gave the Wildcats their first double-digit lead of the game, 33-23.

    “I just thought that for a couple of minutes, we resembled what our team can look like,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. “That was the only time that happened today. I think we allowed Florida and their aggressiveness and their physical play and their changing defense, so when we didn’t have success early we just had some people decide they weren’t going to try to figure it out.”

    Evans, the only starter to notch double figures (10 points, seven rebounds) on a tough night for the Wildcats’ stars was appreciative of the sellout crowd.

    “It just brings a lot more energy,” she said “Just to know there’s a sellout crowd, like today, it gives us a lot more to play for. We don’t only have to play for our team and our coaches, we have a lot of people that we are playing in front of that show us so much support. I think the fan base helps us a lot.”

    Keyla Snowden was the only other Wildcat to breach double figures with 11 points off the bench.

    Forward Samarie Walker, who came off the bench for nine points and seven boards, plus three blocks and three steals, was satisfied, at least with her team’s defense.

    “I am working hard in practice. My teammates stay on me,” Walker said. “My coaches stay on me. I have been working really hard on my defense. I have been focusing on it more than anything.”

    Jordan Jones led the Gators with 10 points in a valiant effort. Florida gets some time off to regroup; they don’t play again until Sunday when they take to to the road against Arkansas.

  • Arkansas stretched its win streak to three games and kept LSU reeling with its third straight conference loss, 72-52, at Baton Rouge.

    The Razorbacks were ahead by 16 at the half and won the second by four, and though the LSU defense stiffened in the second, Arkansas won that one as well, by four points.

    Senior Lyndsay Harris tied her season-high with 17 points, leading four players in double figures for Arkansas.  Classmate Ashley Daniels added 11 and Baton Rouge native Dominique Robinson and senior C’eira Ricketts pitched in 10 apiece. LSU got off to a fast start, but the Razorbacks responded, switching between a press and the zone to keep LSU off-balance. By the half, Arkansas led 38-22, a 16-point deficit from which the Lady Tigers never recovered.

    Courtney Jones scored 14 to lead LSU.

    Though LSU prides itself on its defense, on this day, it was Arkansas that got the job done, forcing 12 turnovers in the first half alone.  For the game as a whole, Arkansas forced LSU into 27 turnovers, a season-high for Razorback opponents, and grabbed a season-best 17 steals in the win.

    Meanwhile, the Hogs hit a season-best eight treys, four by Harris, and went 8-for-9 from the line. “ “Well, it was a good win for us,” said Arkansas coach Tom Collen.  “We played with a lot of confidence and it was great to get a win on the road.”

    LSU was reeling from injuries that have decimated its starting line. This was the first game LSU was playing without point guard and team leader Destini Hughes, who is lost for the remainder of the season with torn ligaments and a torn meniscus in her right knee suffered in the Tigers loss last week at Tennessee.  Jeanne Kennedy , who starts alongside Hughes in the backcourt and backs up Hughes when she needs a breather, suffered a concussion in the same game and was a game-time decision. She also did not play.

    That left forward LaSondra Barrett to bring the ball down the floor, with Adrienne Webb the only guard available to start. Webb went 4-of-10 from the field with a team-high five turnovers.

    “Destini has been a leader and a critical part of our success this season,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “She’s the kind of person and player that makes her teammates better. We feel for her but know she will continue to be a leader for us even through this tough time. All of the coaching staff and her teammates wish her nothing but the best in her recovery.”

    We may well see Arkansas continue to climb up the SEC standings; its next three are winnable, starting Thursday at Mississippi State.

  • Mississippi State rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit on Sunday to stop visiting Auburn, 62-57.

      Senior Diamber Johnson continues to dominate for State, this time with 27 points.  Johnson now ranks 19th on the MSU all-time scoring list, needing 48 to hit 1,000 career points.

    Kendra Grant added a career-high 15 points for State.

    “When we were down big we were in the huddle and asked the girls, ‘Do you believe we can this game?’ ” State coach Sharon Fanning-Otis recounted. “When you are down, you have to believe you can win. You don’t have any chance to come back unless you really believe you can make the plays to win a game.”

    It was the first conference win of the season at home for the Bulldogs, and their third straight against Auburn. MSU knocked off Auburn in their arena for the first time since a 75-68 overtime triumph in 2005.

    “We had to keep our heads in the game,” Johnson said. “When your shots aren’t falling, how do you respond to that? We knew it was going to be a battle so our job was to stay committed to what we were trying to do. I am proud of the way we fought back.”

    “The key to the second half was a positive turnover-to-assist ratio,” Fanning-Otis explained. “We turned the ball over four times in the second half. They have two really good three-point shooters and we did a better job of locating them in the second half.”

    “If a team continues to work hard and learns how to play together, they can find a way to win some games,” Fanning-Otis added. “That is what we have done this week.”

  • Alabama remained winless in conference play after falling on the road at Florida (37-61) on Thursday, then taking the weekend off.

    Worse, the Tide got some expected sad news when senior guard Ericka Russell called it a career, technically a “medical disqualification” due to recurring knee injuries.

    Coach Wendell Hudson announced: “Ericka Russell is the epitome of a student-athlete. She has already graduated and is in the process of receiving her master’s degree. She came to practice every day and always gave her best.

    “She has had chronic knee issues since she got here. It was time for her to think about her future and what was best for her, long-term. This is obviously tough from a team standpoint, but we really want what is best for her.”

    Russell, 5-7, from Tuscaloosa, has been a steady fixture in the Tide lineup since 2008. She has started in all but 11 games throughout her career and became the 23rd member of Alabama’s 1,000-Point Club on Nov. 12.  She earned Most Valuable Player honors at the 2011 Paradise Jam after averaging 17.7 points per game in the holiday tournament, including a season-high 29 against Old Dominion.

    Russell finishes her career as one of the best three-point shooters in school history, ranking fourth all-time in three-pointers made (212) and attempted (709).

    “After talking to my family and the doctors and praying about it, it is in my best interest,” said Russell. “I have enjoyed my career here and will leave having accomplished what I set out to do in earning two degrees. I have met a lot of special people along the way that have helped me and will forever be grateful for that.”.)

Current SEC Standings

SEC Women’s Basketball Standings
(As of January 25, 2012)
Rank School Conf. Pct. Overall Pct.
1 Kentucky 7-0 1.000 18-2 .900
2 Tennessee 5-1 .833 14-5 .737
3 Georgia 5-2 .714 16-4 .800
4 South Carolina 4-3 .571 15-5 .750
5 LSU 4-3 .571 14-6 .700
6 Mississippi State 3-3 .500 13-6 .684
7 Arkansas 3-4 .200 14-5 .737
8 Florida 3-4 .429 13-7 .650
9 Vanderbilt 2-4 .333 14-5 .737
10 Ole Miss 2-5 .286 12-8 .600
11 Auburn 2-5 .286 10-10 .500
12 Alabama 0-6 .000 10-10 .500
Source: secdigitalnetwork.com

Coming Up Midweek: Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

Coming Up Midweek: Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

  • No. 6 Kentucky @ Auburn

    This should be another eminently winnable game for Kentucky, now ranked No. 6 in both national polls – unless, that is, the Wildcat starters decide to take another siesta as they did last Sunday against Florida. The Tigers may be just 2-5 in SEC action to date, but they are not a team to be taken for granted. Auburn beat a sound South Carolina squad last Thursday and then gave the Mississippi State front line all it could handle for much of their game Sunday, outrebounding the Bulldogs by 13, forcing 16 turnovers and shooting a respectable, if not impressive, 35 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from the arc.

    Prediction: Kentucky can do much better than that when all of its players have their heads in the game. Here’s betting Matt Mitchell will have his team ready to play. Wildcats by double digits.

    When: Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, 7:00 p.m. EST/6:00 p.m. CST, Auburn Arena, Auburn, Ala.

  • Ole Miss @ South Carolina

    After an off-night against Auburn last week, the Gamecocks have a chance to follow up on their win at Vandy and get their win streak restarted when Ole Miss visits on Thursday. The Rebels are just 2-5 in conference action; after the Auburn loss the Gamecocks are 4-3.

    But South Carolina ranks second in the league in rebounding, which is likely to be a key to this came, as will be defense, another strong suit for coach Dawn Staley and her charges.

    Prediction: South Carolina by 10+.

    When: Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, 7:00 p.m. EST, Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, So. Car. (FSN/ESPN3).

  • Arkansas @ Mississippi State

    The Bulldogs enter the game seeking their third straight conference win after getting off to a slow start (0-3) to the conference season. The Razorbacks are 3-4 in conference play, are riding a three-game win streak of their own, and no doubt received a boost in confidence after dispatching nationally ranked Vanderbilt and a short-manned LSU squad last weekend. They seem determined not to be left out of the conference conversation.

    The match-up will showcase SEC Player of the Week Arkansas’s Sarah Watkins, who put up 21 points per game against Vandy, and Mississippi State’s Diamber Johnson, who posted 27 on Sunday against Auburn. But Watkins averages a more modest 10.7 points per game, second on the Arkansas team behind C’eira Ricketts’ team-high 10.8, while Johnson averages a more substantial 17.9 points per outing.

    Can the Razorbacks count on Watkins or Ricketts for another above-par outing?

    Prediction: Home-court advantage, and a broader array of offensive weaponry give this one to the Bulldogs.

    When:  Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, 8:00 p.m. EST/7:00 p.m. CST, Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, Miss.

  • No. 15/14 Georgia @ Vanderbilt

    In this match-up between two teams – both of which have been nationally ranked for much of the season – now headed in opposite directions, the best conference game of the week features the ’Dawgs at Vanderbilt on Thursday in advance of their Jan. 29 home date with Tennessee. Unfortunately Vanderbilt has played itself out of the national conversation after being solidly ranked a few weeks ago.

    Prediction: Georgia – but expect a defensive grinder, not a high-scoring footrace.

    When: Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, 9:00 p.m. EST/8:00 p.m. CST, Memorial Gym, Nashville, Tenn. (CSS)

  • Tennessee @ Alabama

    Need we say more. The Lady Vols will be out to avenge their embarrassment Monday at Notre Dame at the expense of the Crimson Tide, who are 0-6 in conference play and won’t be getting any better without their best player.

    Prediction: Tennessee – by a lot.

    When: Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, 9:00 p.m. EST, 8:00 p.m. CST,  Foster Auditorium, Tuscaloosa, Ala. (FSN/ESPN3)

    Originally published Thu, January 26, 2012

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
Rank remains unchanged since last week
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.