CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Georgia coach Andy Landers has seen his stellar program lose its edge the past few seasons.
The Lady Bulldogs have done a good job so far of gaining it back.
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Angel Robinson had 12 points and 14 rebounds and No. 9 Georgia improved to 12-0 for the second time in three seasons with a 59-47 win at Clemson on Monday night.
Most schools would be pleased with the women’s basketball team’s performance this decade. Georgia’s won 20 or more games seven times, including a 27-7 mark three seasons ago.
But Landers watched the Lady Bulldogs struggled through a five-game losing streak in the Southeastern Conference last season, the worst such stretch of the coach’s 31 seasons at the school.
“This team has been really, really focusing on what we need to do to restore the luster of Georgia basketball. We feel like we’ve lost that the last two, three years,” Landers said. “And they want it back.”
The Lady Bulldogs will have to shore up their offense once the SEC season begins Sunday at Alabama.
Leading scorer Jasmine James was 2 of 12 for 8 points, off her average of 14 coming in. Georgia was 2 of 15 on 3-pointers and just 15 of 24 on foul shots.
Where Georgia excelled was on defense. The Lady Bulldogs had 12 steals and outrebounded Clemson 50-39.
“We’re capable of playing offensively like we do defensively,” Landers said. “We’re going to get there.”
Robinson, a 6-foot-5 senior, showed her skill at both against the Tigers. Along with 14 boards, she had five blocks and hit four of her six shots from the field.
Robinson said the team played its past five games at home and had to adjust to the road atmosphere. “Even though our shots weren’t falling, we pretty much held back on defense, rebounded, did a good job,” she said.
The win moved Georgia two games away from its best-ever start, a 14-0 run in 1998-99 which ended with the Lady Bulldogs in the Final Four.
Robinson says the players don’t discuss the undefeated season or how long it can last. “We’re happy about winning,” she said. “We don’t care how many games we win, we’re happy that were performing and improving along the way.”
Georgia looked like it might finally put away the Tigers when it held a 13-point lead midway through the second half.
Clemson made a last run, slicing the margin to 47-42 on Lele Hardy’s 3-pointer with 6:33 left.
But Robinson hit two foul shots and Porsha Phillips had a three-point play to regain control.
The Tigers could not make another run. “We couldn’t make any shots,” Clemson coach Cristy McKinney said. “We weren’t patient and didn’t go inside enough.”
Hardy, the team’s leading scorer, went just 1 of 7 on threes and ended with 13 points.
It was Robinson’s second double-double in three games, both against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. She had 11 points and 10 rebounds in a 69-53 victory over Virginia on Dec. 20.
Phillips also had 12 points and Ashley Houts 10 for Georgia.
This one looked like a mismatch but Georgia struggled early on against a Tigers team that had won five of its past six coming in.
Whenever the Lady Bulldogs seemed ready to take control, Clemson would rally.
Houts’ 3-pointer gave Georgia a 24-17 edge. Then freshman Anne Marie Armstrong scored seven straight points for the Lady Bulldogs to push the margin to 31-22 with 5:01 to go in the opening half.
But the Tigers gave up just one more basket the rest of the way and went to the locker room down 33-27.
Georgia’s offensive problems continued after the break, but so did its top-notch defense. Landers, the Lady Bulldogs’ coach, is confident his team will have both facets working soon enough.
“We can’t get there in a week, a day, or two or three games,” he said. “But we’ve got to continue.”
Robinson likes the road the Lady Bulldogs are on, no matter the problems others might see.
“You can say whatever you want to, as long as we’re making our coach happy and our fans happy, that’s all that matters,” she said.