Georgia 53, Belmont 36

Saturday, March 17th 2007, 4:52 pm
By: News On 6

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ There was nothing pretty about Georgia's victory over pesky Belmont in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.

And the Lady Bulldogs know that they'll be heading home early if they put up another performance similar to this one on Monday night.

The tournament-tested Lady Bulldogs held the newcomers from Nashville to one field goal in the final 15:22 of an ugly 53-36 win at Williams Arena.

``We definitely have to step it up,'' Georgia forward Christy Marshall said. ``We can't go into the second round playing like that. If we want to stick around, we have to play harder.''

Ashley Houts had 10 points and 6-assists for Georgia, which held the Bruins to 20 percent shooting and forced 22 turnovers.

Gritty Belmont (25-7) withstood an early shot from the Bulldogs, turning the game into a sloppy turnover fest that kept it close in the 2nd half.

The two teams combined to miss 82 shots and turn the ball over 35 times.

``We're guarding people, we're hitting shots, then we started missing shots and, the more we missed, the less we attacked on the defensive end,'' coach Andy Landers said. ``That's unfortunate, but that's where it was.''

With the Hall of Fame coach throwing his hands up in disgust for much of the game, 3rd-seeded Georgia (26-6) took over the game on defense to advance to play 6th-seeded Iowa State on Monday night.

Alysha Clark led Belmont with 12 points and 13 rebounds, but the Bruins were just 1-25 on 3-pointers.

``We had wide-open shots, we just couldn't knock them down,'' Clark said. ``If we would have been hitting our shots, it would have been a different game.''

The game looked like a monumental mismatch on paper, with Georgia making its 24th appearance in the NCAA tournament and Belmont here for the first time.

That's not all.

Georgia has won 765 games in 28 seasons under Landers, who coached his 1,000th game Saturday. He knows how to handle the distractions of the NCAA tournament, having led the Bulldogs to 13 straigth berths, and 16 rounds of 16 and five Final Fours in his career.

Few casual basketball fans even know where Belmont is on a map.

The small school of about 4,500 students in Nashville, Tenn., has only been playing Division I basketball for 10 years since making the jump from the NAIA in 1997.

Even the little things got in Bruins' way on their first trip to the big one. Belmont coach Tony Cross marveled on Friday at all the paperwork his team had to fill out, calling it ``kind of overwhelming.''

But the loss did little to temper the Bruins' enthusiasm.

``It helps our program,'' Belmont forward Tereva Moore said. ``It lets people know where Belmont is. We're going to be back. It gives us confidence.''

The Bruins looked predictably starry-eyed in the first 21/2 minutes, falling behind 11-0 and missing their first seven shots.

``I've never been shut out, so I figured we were going to score sometime, hopefully sooner or later,'' Cross deadpanned.

They didn't give up.

The Bruins trailed by 12 points at halftime, but outscored Georgia 11-4 in the first 6-minutes to cut the lead to 34-29. They frustrated Bulldogs star Tasha Humphrey, who came into the game averaging 16.1 points and 8.0 rebounds but scored just 9-points on 3-10 shooting.

Belmont also out-rebounded Georgia 46-39 and grabbed 20 offensive boards.

``The problem was we didn't clean up after ourselves,'' Landers said. ``We played reasonably good defense, but allowed them to get to the offensive boards far, far, far too many times.''