When: 7 tonight
Where: Stegman Coliseum, Athens
TV: Fox Sports Net
Web site: www.georgiadogs.com
ATHENS — Teresa Edwards says watching Georgia’s resurgence takes her back to when she laced them up as a Lady Bulldog.
Coach Andy Landers has the Lady Bulldogs on the comeback trail after Edwards watched the program’s decline in recent years.
Georgia was not in the preseason Top 25 last year for the first time since 1980. The uncharacteristic start led to a similarly disappointing finish — an 18-14 record with a first-round NCAA tournament loss to Arizona State.
Now Georgia (17-1 overall, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) is No. 8 after being out of the top 10 for almost two years. They can match last season’s win total by beating No. 3 Tennessee (16-1, 4-0) on Thursday night.
Edwards helped lead Georgia to two Final Fours in the mid-1980s as she launched a career that included being the first U.S. basketball player — male or female — to play in five Olympics.
“I’m really excited just to see what it feels like,” Edwards said Wednesday. “It’s reminiscent of my college days.”
“The constant winning,” said Edwards, who remains close to Landers and the Georgia program. “The fact they’ve only lost one game so far. The pride of winning. You can see it. They carry a pride. They don’t carry arrogance. They carry a desire to get better and a desire to win. I’m telling you, to me that’s Georgia basketball.”
Just like in Edwards’ era, Georgia and Tennessee are battling for the SEC lead.
Georgia won its first 16 games for its best start in school history. A win over coach Pat Summitt and Tennessee would affirm Georgia’s return to elite status.
Senior Angel Robinson says her goal is to help restore Georgia’s national respect.
“In the other years we dug ourselves a big hole and were not carrying the Georgia tradition,” Robinson said before Wednesday’s practice. “This year we’re just a totally different team. We’re working hard. Everybody is doing their share. We don’t like losing.”
Robinson said Georgia’s only loss, a 66-44 defeat at Vanderbilt last week, showed her how much the team’s standards have changed in one year.
“After we lost at Vanderbilt we were just shocked,” Robinson said. “We didn’t know how to react to that.”
Georgia bounced back with a 73-63 win at Arkansas.
A key for Georgia has been freshman guard Jasmine James, who has taken scoring and ball-handling pressure off senior guard Ashley Houts.
James, from Memphis, is averaging 12.2 points and has impressed Edwards.
“I like her intensity,” Edwards said. “I like the effort she puts out there. I like her fire. I haven’t seen that in a Georgia player in a long time. That’s really exciting for a player like me to watch.”
James is the only freshman starter, but three other first-year players are in Landers’ rotation: Anne Marie Armstrong, Jasmine Hassell and Candace Williams.
“I think this is one of Andy’s best teams,” Summitt said Wednesday. “From a defensive standpoint they just really get after you. ... We haven’t seen anyone quite as aggressive on the defensive end. I think they’re just one of the best right now in our league.”
Tennessee leads the series 39-14.
Landers is in his 31st season at Georgia. Summitt is in her 36th season at Tennessee.
Landers has coached the Lady Bulldogs to five Final Fours, but none since 1999. He has won seven SEC titles, but none since 2000. He has won four SEC tournament championships, but none since 2001.
Landers said he is savoring the renewed success this season.
“It’s actually a little bit special because most of the things that were keeping us from being who we are today are gone,” Landers said. “It wasn’t like everything was going well and we just teed it up again.
“We actually had to change some things.”
Robinson said the decade-long championship drought gives this team an opportunity.
“As a senior we said what can we do to put Georgia back on top?” Robinson said. “Looking at the record last year, I don’t think I want to go out like that. I want to go out on top. I want to leave something. I want us to take a step ahead and win the SEC championship and people can say ‘She was a part of bringing Georgia back.’”