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Lady Dogs look for home-court advantage
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NCAA Women's Tournament

Georgia vs. Arizona State

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Arena at Gwinnett Center

DULUTH — Arizona State's role as favorite in its NCAA tournament opener may be offset by unranked Georgia's home-state advantage Saturday.

The Sun Devils are the No. 6 seed, but 11th-seeded Georgia is playing only an hour's drive from the University of Georgia campus.

Georgia (18-13) sneaked into the NCAA field as an at-large team, and then was automatically placed in Duluth because it is the host school for the first- and second-round games.

Third-seeded Florida State will face No. 14 seed North Carolina A&T in Saturday's second game.

Georgia expects to have the home-crowd advantage at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, where it has posted a 5-1 record the last five seasons, including a win over Clemson this season.

"It's definitely a home-court advantage for us," Georgia guard Danielle Taylor said Friday. "It's a great opportunity. We hope to capitalize on it."

Arizona State (23-8) lost its last two games after losing point guard Dymond Simon, the team's leading scorer, to a knee injury. Simon traveled with the team but will not play.

The NCAA, hoping to boost attendance for the opening rounds of the tournament, moved to 16 sites this year instead of eight. Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said coaches resisted the new format "because the higher seed would end up playing on a lower seed's home court or hometown."

But now that the 19th-ranked Sun Devils are in exactly that situation, they're ready, Turner Thorne said.

"You know what? It is where we're at and I understand that and appreciate that," she said. "The bottom line is that we are here and we would not be in the NCAA tournament unless we knew how to win on the road."

Georgia coach Andy Landers said the format switch should be good for the tournament.

"The different things we have done, things we have attempted to do with sites, in my view all these things have been attendance-driven," Landers said. "This is a piece of the tournament that all of us want to get better and make better."
Florida State coach Sue Semrau said she's not worried about Georgia's possible home-state edge.

"I think having an arena that's away from someone's campus, for us that justifies it being a neutral site," Semrau said. "They have to travel also."

The location in Atlanta's northeast suburbs was close enough to allow No. 12 Florida State to travel by bus from Tallahassee, Fla.

Georgia expects to have more fans at the game, but Arizona State's bigger concern is replacing Simon, the junior who averaged 13.8 points and 3.2 assists. Simon suffered the injury in the first half of a loss to Stanford in the final game of the regular season. While playing without Simon, Arizona State lost to Southern Cal in its opening game of the Pac-10 tournament.

"It probably was a blessing in some ways just to go home early and have more time to regroup," said Turner Thorne, who said she now is confident the Sun Devils can win without Simon.

"I am confident based on this week of practice," Turner Thorne said. "If you would have asked me last week, I probably would have said I just don't know."

Florida State (25-7) will have a size advantage against North Carolina A&T (26-6), but Semrau said she is wary of her team's ability to defend the Aggies' smaller but quicker post players.

"It's very difficult, I think, to guard those quick guard-like post players," Semrau said. "You think you have a size advantage, but on the defensive side of the floor it's not always an easy thing. ... It's not something we typically see in the ACC, but we've been there before."

North Carolina A&T's No. 14 seed is the highest ever for a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference school.

"A lot of times you may not see us on television, but it's not that we can't perform," said coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs. "If they stay focused and do what they need to do, it will be a really good game."
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