ATHENS — Despite missing 21 of 34 free throws and playing the last 9« minutes without its senior point guard, No. 13 Georgia somehow managed to rally against rival No. 23 Georgia Tech for a 56-50 victory Sunday.
Ashley Houts averages 35 minutes a game, so when she fouled out with 9:31 remaining, the opportunity was there for Georgia Tech to win for the first time ever in Athens.
"I thought we were going to make a run," Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Josoph said.
"We should have capitalized," Tech guard Deja Foster said.
At first it looked like Tech (5-2) might, taking a 48-43 lead with 5:34 to go on a breakaway layup by Foster.
But with freshman Jasmine James playing the point, Georgia (8-0) rallied around Porsha Phillips to pull away for the win.
Phillips scored 14 points, including two free throws with 5.6 seconds left, but coach Andy Landers wanted to talk about her defense.
"The kids on defense made adjustments on their own," Landers said. "Porsha took the initiative to make the calls to switch and play, and her teammates played off of it."
Landers said the defensive instinct is a learned trait for Phillips.
"She has come so far," he said. "I am so proud of that kid."
Georgia won despite shooting 38 percent from the free throw line, its worst effort since hitting just 33 percent against Vanderbilt on Feb. 14, 1999. The Lady Dogs came in shooting 74 percent from the line, but made only 13 of 34 attempts.
"I think it was a mentality thing, especially for me," said Meredith Mitchell, who missed eight of 12 free throws and scored 10 points. "We are not a bad free throw shooting team."
"It seems like it happens once a year," Landers said. "If one person misses and the next person misses, you might as well book it. That is the way it is going to be. I am glad we got it done and out of the way."
James scored 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting from the field and she missed all four of her free throws. But she managed to fill in admirably for Houts.
"We work on it a lot in practice," James said, "but I never thought it would actually happen. The first thing, I was in shock. I realized that this was a role I was going to have to get into. We can’t just go completely downhill because she is out of the game."
"We’ve never had to do that before," Landers said of playing without Houts. "I was really pleased and proud of the way the kids responded. They don’t blink."
Alex Montgomery led Georgia Tech with 10 points but she missed two 3-point attempts in the last minute.
"We did not execute the game plan," she said.
Tech led by as many as 11 points in the first half and was up 48-43 when Foster made a layup with 5:34 to go.
But James, banked in a 3-pointer to ignite a game-closing 13-2 run. Tech’s only points during that stretch came on two free throws by Brigitte Ardossi.
"I thought free throws were a big factor," Joseph said. "They had 34 free throws and we had five. That’s a big discrepancy. I thought we were aggressive in attacking the basket, but I was disappointed that we only went to the free throw line five times."
Georgia leads the all-time series 29-3.