CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Jasmine James had a big night at Ashley Houts' homecoming.
James scored 25 points in leading No. 16 Georgia to a 74-57 victory over Chattanooga on Thursday at McKenzie Arena, about 15 minutes from where Houts became a local star at Dade County High School.
A rough estimate was that half of Trenton (pop. 1,942) was part of the 4,004 in attendance and cheered for each of Houts' 21 points, five assists and four steals.
"I don't think it was as much nervous as anxious because there were people here tonight who normally don't get to make it to Athens," Houts said. "It's always good to have some fans when you're on the road, and we had a lot tonight.
"It's cool to play in front of your hometown and a lot of familiar faces."
It's even better to play well. Houts led the Lady Bulldogs (2-0) back from a halftime deficit and inspired James to set some lofty career highs in her second college game.
Chattanooga led 36-33 at halftime, with Houts and James combining for 15 points on 2-of-13 shooting. The Lady Mocs built that advantage on the strength of 16 points from senior center Shanara Hollinquest, who finished with 20.
But Georgia opened the second half on a 14-3 run, with Houts scoring 10 points during that span.
"When we needed it — and Houts is a senior and the captain — she did what we needed her to do," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "She sparked us. She made plays, and what that does is give other people ideas and other people confidence."
James, a freshman guard, scored 16 of Georgia's next 19 points on a mix of open 3-pointers and drives to the lane.
"Ashley came out really aggressive and things started happening," James said. "Then I felt more comfortable, and I got more into my groove."
After the Lady Bulldogs surged ahead, Chattanooga (1-2) pulled within four points on two occasions. With 6:53 to play, Chattanooga trailed 56-52. But Georgia closed the game on an 18-5 run.
"That's an unbelievable guard tandem they have right there," said Chattanooga coach Wes Moore, who received a three-page, handwritten letter from Houts when she signed with Georgia. "With James, it takes some pressure off Ashley. James is a kid who can take you off the bounce or knock down the 3. They've got great perimeter scoring."
And great chemistry as well considering James, from Bartlett High School in Memphis, missed all but two weeks of the preseason with a bone bruise on her leg.
"I have a feeling that Houts probably gives (James) some ideas, but I think she's also given Ashley some ideas because she's never played with a partner like that. They have a possibility of sparking our team on a consistent basis," Landers said. "They're starting to get connected."
Chattanooga senior Jenaya Wade-Fray had 15 points.