No. 2 Georgia cruises by Liberty 77-48
Updated: Saturday March 17, 2001 12:35 AM
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- What Georgia lacked in style, it made up with suffocating defense.
Kelly Miller scored 16 points, and the second-seeded Lady Bulldogs cruised to a 77-48 victory over Liberty in the first round of the East Regional on Friday night.
Georgia (27-5), which was dismayed at being passed over for a No. 1 seed, got off to a sloppy start with 16 first-half turnovers - more than its average for an entire game.
But the Lady Bulldogs simply turned it up on the defensive end, holding Liberty to 28 percent shooting (17-of-60) and forcing 27 turnovers.
"We made a great effort of applying defensive pressure throughout the game," coach Andy Landers said. "All in all, we are where we want to be. This time (Saturday) night, there will be 32 teams. After that, it goes down real fast."
Georgia extended its home winning streak to 24 games by beating the 15th-seeded Flames (18-12), setting up a second-round matchup Sunday with No. 10 seed Missouri.
The Tigers advanced with a 71-68 victory over Wisconsin in the first game at Stegeman Coliseum.
Even though Georgia was playing loose with the ball, Liberty fell behind 12-2 just five minutes into the game and never cut the deficit below double figures again.
"We did a good job of making sure they were not going to get good looks on offense," Georgia guard Kiesha Brown said.
Miller and her twin sister, Coco, went into the tournament knowing the next loss could end their playing career together. They have been teammates throughout high school and four years at Georgia, but there is no guarantee they'll wind up on the same team if they move on to the WNBA as expected.
The Millers combined to score 10 of Georgia's first 14 points, but it wasn't a stellar performance by either player.
Still, Kelly came close to a triple-double, finishing with nine rebounds and nine assists. Coco added 14 points.
"In the first half, maybe we were forcing things too much and not running the cuts we should have," Kelly Miller said.
Georgia finished with 21 turnovers, well above its season average of 14.3 per game.
Landers, the normally fiery Georgia coach, watched stoically as his more talented team ran up the score in the final minutes.
"Wake up, Andy," a fan yelled.
Thirteen players took the court for Georgia, and 10 scored.
"We played a very talented, athletic team," Liberty coach Carey Green said. "Maybe we were like a deer caught in the headlights a little bit. We didn"t execute like we're capable of."
Liberty began the season 2-9, then won 16 of its next 18 games to capture its fifth straight Big South Conference championship. But the Flames have yet to win an NCAA game, losing five straight by an average margin of 33.4 points.
Liberty has lost twice to Georgia in the last three years, including a 73-52 setback in 1999. Both times, Landers beat his close friend Green, who attended the same high school in Friendsville, Tenn.
"I expect them to go on in the tournament," Green said. "They have all the elements - guard play, post play, speed - to dominate a game."
No one scored in double figures for the Flames, whose most impressive player was 6-foot-7 center Meribeth Feenstra. She had nine blocks and 11 rebounds.