ATHENS - Senior Meredith Mitchell scored a career-high 21 points to lead No. 12 Georgia to a 67-60 win over No. 23 Southern Cal on Sunday.
Georgia (4-0) took an early 21-7 lead and led by as many as 19 points in the second half, forcing Southern Cal (1-2) to play catch up.
"We defended very well," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "It has been that way all year. I thought the kids prepared very well. They were on point. They recognized the things they needed to recognize as the game transpired."
Though Georgia's defense forced the action most of the game, both halves ended with Southern Cal rallies.
"It was almost like we were not disciplined enough to play great," said Landers. "If we had been playing with drugs today, we would have overdosed."
Khaalidah Miller added 17 points for Georgia.
Jacki Gemelos led Southern Cal with 16 points. Briana Gilbreath and Cassie Harberts scored 15 apiece. Harberts also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
Southern Cal shot only 24.1 percent (7 of 29) in the first half. It was worse at the start when the Women of Troy made only three of their first 21 field goal attempts.
The Lady Bulldogs bolted to a 21-7 lead with 8:02 to go in the first half when Mitchell completed a three-point play after her second baseline drive in the span of 32 seconds.
"If Meredith is going to score, she needs to drive," Landers said. "She is not a float-around, spot-up shooter. If she is going to be effective, she has to penetrate."
Mitchell scored 17 points total in Georgia's first three games.
"I was looking to drive more," she said. "I feel a lot better, and I am a lot more confident driving the ball, especially shooting the way I have been lately. I wanted to start out aggressive and drive and let the game come to me."
Like Landers, she was pleased with Georgia's defense.
"We hang our hat on defense," Mitchell said. "We knew that Southern Cal was a very good team with balanced scoring."
"We couldn't hit shots," coach Michael Cooper said of Southern Cal's offensive woes. "When you don't hit shots on the road, it's going to be difficult to win games.
Whenever you dig a hole like that for yourself, it's hard to climb out."
The Women of Troy still trailed 26-13 with 3:32 to go in the half after a 3-pointer by Georgia's Miller. But Southern Cal scored six straight points to end the half and pull to within 26-19.
When Harberts worked her way under the basket to score on a short jumper 14 seconds into the second half, Southern Cal was within five points of Georgia.
"Our ladies played hard," said Cooper. "They closed the gap, and they stayed with it."
But then Mitchell, Georgia's only senior, picked up a loose ball for a layup and hit a 3-pointer to put the Lady Dogs back up 31-21.
Her baskets ignited a 14-0 run that included a four-point possession. Jasmine Hassell was fouled on a field goal.
She missed her free throw, but guard Jasmine James sneaked in the back door for an uncontested putback on the miss, making it 40-21 with 16:06 to play, the widest margin of the game.
The Women of Troy narrowed the gap to 43-33 on a fade-away jumper by Gemelos with 10:21 to play.
But six straight points by Georgia pushed the lead back to 49-33 with 8:39 left, capped by a putback by Hassell.
Anne Marie Armstrong's layup with 4:01 left put Georgia up 60-44, but Southern Cal rallied with seven straight points to make it 60-51 with 1:42 to go.
It was close as Southern Cal would get until Gilbreath's basket with 2 seconds to go accounted for the final margin.
It was Georgia's fourth game in 10 days and third in the last six.