Rutgers hands Georgia women first loss of season

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer was hoping her team would be

ready for a Top 25 challenge.

The Scarlet Knights answered with a thrilling 61-58 victory over

No. 16 Georgia.

Kahleah Copper and Betnijah Laney each scored 18 points to help

Rutgers hand Georgia its first loss of the season.

”We needed to have our confidence as this is a young group,”

Stringer said. ”This is a major game to find out how well we’re

going to play at that level.”

Rutgers (9-2) lost its only other game against a ranked opponent

this season, falling to LSU. The Scarlet Knights also had added

incentive after losing at Georgia last year.

”We try not to look too far ahead,” said Laney, who also had

10 rebounds. ”When it came up it was something we were looking

forward to because we lost to them last year. This time we were at

home and didn’t want to be mad for Christmas.”

Rutgers led by four at the half and the Scarlet Knights couldn’t

build on that early in the second half. Georgia took its first lead

of the game, 46-45, on a three-point play by Tiaria Griffin with

7:25 left.

The Scarlet Knights answered with six straight points to make it

51-46 with 5 minutes left.

Rutgers led 59-52 with 21 seconds left before Shacobia Barbee

hit a 3-pointer to make it a four-point game. After a missed free

throw by Syessence Davis, Barbee swished another 3 from the top of

the key to make it 59-58 with 7 seconds left.

Tyler Scaife hit two free throws with 5.9 left and Khaalidah

Miller’s 3-pointer from 35-feet at the buzzer bounced off the front

rim.

Barbee finished with a season-high 18 points – 17 of them in the

second half – to lead Georgia (11-1), which had 24 turnovers.

”We weren’t executing and something we learned was that we need

to take care of the ball every possession,” Barbee said.

This was only the second trip out of the state of Georgia for

the Lady Bulldogs, who played at Belmont earlier this month. The

Lady Bulldogs got off to a tough start turning the ball over on

their first six possessions. They didn’t score their first points

until Erika Ford’s jumper from the wing nearly 6 minutes into the

game.

”I’m proud of the fact that we didn’t fold,” Georgia coach

Andy Landers said. ”They handed it to us the first five or six

minutes and we got our balance and fought back. From that point on

really played pretty decent.”

Georgia battled back to tie the game at 27 on Miller’s

3-pointer. Rutgers led 31-27 at the break.

This was the Lady Bulldogs first trip to Rutgers since the 2008

season when the two teams met in the Jimmy V Classic. Rutgers came

away with a 45-34 victory.

The Scarlet Knights will open up American Athletic Conference

play next Saturday at South Florida. Rutgers is in the new

conference for one season before heading to the Big Ten next

year.

Georgia closes its non-conference schedule against Lipscomb

before starting SEC play at Vanderbilt on Jan. 2.

”As everyone knows the SEC is a tough league with Kentucky and

Tennessee in there,” Miller said. ”We knew it would be a really

good game against a really good team and it’s what we’ll see in the

SEC as well.”

Follow Doug on Twitter at

http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg