ATHENS, Ga. — After playing virtually every minute of most games in her career, Georgia senior point guard Jasmine James finally got a break.
Credit the contribution of four freshmen, giving James fresh legs at the end of the game.
James, who was able to get 7 minutes of rest, sprung loose with 2:05 to play to catch a full-court in-bounds pass that led to a layup and put the Lady Dogs up by 10, putting the Scarlet Knights too far down to rally in No. 10 Georgia's 57-51 victory Sunday.
"Thirty-three minutes is pretty much a vacation for me, considering the past two or three years of playing 40 minutes a game," James said with a laugh. "It did help me to have some extra energy down the stretch instead of dragging."
James finished with 10 points, as did teammates Anne Marie Armstrong and Jasmine Hassell. Khaalidah Miller led the scoring with 12 points.
Georgia (1-0) Coach Andy Landers agreed that the extra depth for the Lady Dogs gives the whole team the freedom to play with maximum energy at all times.
"We had four freshmen get in and get significant minutes," Landers noted. "They all did some good things, and they all did some things that they would like to do over. The good thing is that they were on the bench the last six minutes processing. It is one thing for the coach to say there are no easy plays. It is another for them to turn it over at half court and watch them lay it up on the other end. That happened twice today."
It happened far more often on the other end of the floor, however, as Georgia scored 18 points off 26 Rutgers turnovers.
"If you are not rebounding, you better turn them over," said Landers, after Rutgers outrebounded Georgia 42-29. "You have to steal it or turn them over. It was huge."
Erica Wheeler scored 12 points, and Chelsey Lee 11 for Rutgers (0-1).
An 18-2 run by the Lady Dogs midway in the first half proved to be the difference in the game.
Rutgers led 12-8 after Lee's short basket with 12:57 to go in the first half before Georgia mounted its 18-2 surge, capped by Tiaria Griffin's steal and layup with 4:17 to go before the half, building a 26-14 lead.
Landers said that the key to the Georgia rally was the defensive help by the guards on Rutgers' centers.
"Rutgers struggled to score in the half court after that," he said.
The game pitted two of the nation's winningest coaches. Rutgers' Vivian Stringer leads active head coaches with 885. Landers is third with 878.
Stringer expressed optimism after the game.
"I saw a lot of fight, energy, tenacity, enthusiasm and never giving up," she said. "I was impressed with Christa Evans. Look at her first year and look at her now. She's developed such confidence. And Briyona Canty never played the point before and came in and did well. Those were question marks that I had."
Georgia led 28-18 at intermission, scoring 13 points off 16 Rutgers turnovers. Georgia failed to score a field goal in the first seven minutes of the second half and Rutgers pulled to within 29-27 with 13:09 to play on a putback by Syessence Davis, prompting a timeout from Georgia Coach Andy Landers. He drew up a play that got a layup for Hassell, the first basket of the half, giving Georgia a 31-27 lead with 12:47 to go.
Georgia's Erika Ford, playing with four fouls, pushed the Lady Dogs to a 40-34 lead with 7:20 to go, hitting a free throw, a putback and a coast-to-coast layup in a 77-second span.
"That was huge," Landers said of Ford's contributions. "They were trying to run a little two-man game, and Erika put a stop to that. She seized almost every opportunity she had in the last eight minutes of the game."
Twice in the last six minutes, Hassell scored from underneath the basket to stretch Georgia's lead to seven points. When James bolted for a full-court pass and layup, she put Georgia ahead 53-43 with 2:05 left and put the Knights into hurry-up mode.