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Landers wants team to regain swagger
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ATHENS — Andy Landers has had it up to here.

If Landers has his way, there will be no more underachieving, no more soft defense — in fact, no more soft anything — for the Georgia Lady Bulldogs.

Underachieving? Soft?

Georgia is coming off a 27-7 season that included a second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference. Georgia played in the NCAA Sweet 16 for the fifth straight year.

For most programs, the 2006-07 season and string of Sweet 16 appearances would be headline material. It was not good enough for Landers, who says he has come to expect better in his 28 seasons in Athens.

Landers has coached the Lady Bulldogs to five Final Fours, but none since 1999.

Landers has won seven SEC championships at Georgia, but none since 2000.

Georgia has won four SEC tournament championships, but none since 2001.

Georgia has been good. Landers wants more.

"The expectations we have for our team are the same we have for ourselves," he said. "We expect and intend to be very good."

Point guard Ashley Houts was last year’s SEC freshman of the year who spent the summer playing on the U.S. national team.

Senior forward, and Gainesville High graduate, Tasha Humphrey, a third-team All-America pick each of the last two seasons, is a go-to scorer.

Angel Robinson, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, has all-star potential, while Megan Darrah, Christy Marshall and Rebecca Rowsey were starters or top backups last season.

A strong class of recruits gives Landers ample depth to demand increased defensive pressure without constant worries about early fouls.

Georgia was No. 9 in the preseason Top 25, and Landers is turning up the heat with a stern preseason challenge.

"As a program, we aren’t where we need to be," he said. "We have slipped. ... For many years, Georgia embraced ‘hard.’ We almost epitomized ‘hard.’ We played you hard. We defended you hard.

"We were aggressive. We were in your face. We had a swagger that dared you to mess with us. I think a lot of that has slipped. We’ve got to get the toughness that Georgia basketball thrived on for a couple of decades back so that we can be that good once again."

Injuries and other roster limitations forced Landers to pull back on how hard he could push his team in recent years. He says players are having to learn how to "really go hard and bust it" to endure his practices.

Humphrey says the players are getting the message.

"We need to get in the habit of going in hard," Humphrey said. "We will go hard and not get tired because we can look to the bench this year."

The bench includes a surprising number of players with family ties to major league baseball:

— Freshman Angela Puleo, who scored 20 points in Georgia’s 99-61 exhibition victory over DT3-Atlanta on Thursday night, is the daughter of former Atlanta Braves pitcher Charlie Puleo, who also pitched for the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds.

— Sophomore Lindsey Moss, a transfer from Tennessee, is San Diego Padres catcher Michael Barrett’s cousin. Moss is a former four-time MVP at Chattahoochee High.

— Porsha Phillips, a sophomore from Redan High who is sitting out this season following a transfer from LSU, is the younger sister of Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips and Los Angeles Angels minor league player Patrick Phillips. Brandon and Patrick each signed with Georgia before opting for professional careers.

Moss was a fill-in starter Thursday night for Darrah, who was out with an ankle injury that is not believed to be serious.

Darrah is moving from forward to a wing position as Landers tries to replace the outside shooting lost with the exits of seniors Cori Chambers and Janese Hardrick, who combined for more than 21 points per game last season.

Puleo has worked behind Houts in practice but scored most of her points at shooting guard in the exhibition opener. Robinson had 18 points and 9 rebounds. Freshman forward Jasmine Lee had 12 points.

"I think we saw that some of our younger kids have improved," Landers said. "And I think we saw that our freshmen can help us. We’ve got the potential for a solid inside game, not with just one but maybe four or five deep."

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