ATHENS — With starting point guard Jasmine James resting a sore knee, No. 17 Georgia turned to its version of Larry Bird to record an 83-58 win over Furman on Wednesday night.
Anne Marie Armstrong scored 19 points, grabbed seven rebounds, picked off four steals, blocked three shots and dished out a pair of assists for Georgia (11-2).
“Her scoring is not even the part that impresses me,” said Georgia coach Andy Landers. “I think Anne Marie makes other people better.
“She is like Bird,” said Landers. “She can shoot the 3. She can post up. She actually drives comparatively speaking better than Bird, and she passes the ball so well. She does a nice job in transition in the open floor. She is unselfish. That is an unselfish 19 points.”
For the second straight game, Georgia played without James, who sprained her right knee Dec. 20 in a win over Montana State. Landers said he hopes she is available for Sunday’s Southeastern Conference opener against Arkansas.
For the first 33 minutes, with the exception of the final 20 seconds of the first half, Meredith Mitchell, Khaalidah Miller and Erika Ford were locked in at the perimeter positions for the Lady Dogs. The trio did a good job with Ford scoring 14 points, while grabbing 10 rebounds, and Mitchell adding 12 points, while dishing out five assists. Center Jasmine Hassell chipped in 15 for Georgia.
Janice Roberts led Furman (8-4) with 15 points. The Paladins hit just 33 percent from the field, and turned the ball over 25 times.
“I think we stayed the course to the end,” said Landers of the Georgia defense. “We were close at the end of the game to being what we were at the beginning. We did not have a lot of lapses.”
Furman Coach Jackie Carson said, “They are way bigger than us, and faster. If we had boxed out a little better in the second half, I thought we could have played with them. Georgia really turned it on.”
The Lady Dogs did not appear to miss James in the first half in racing to a 17-4 lead in the first five minutes. Hassell scored six of those first 17.
Georgia’s biggest lead of the first half was a 20-point spread after reserve Krista Donald hit a pair of free throws with 6:24 showing to make it 35-15. Georgia led 49-31 at the half as Ford had 12 of her points by the break. Armstrong and Georgia dispelled any thoughts of a comeback, starting the second half strong. Her driving layup with 11:03 to play put the Lady Dogs up 64-39.
Georgia led by 27 when reserve Danielle Bennett made a layup for a 77-50 advantage with 4:10 left.
If James cannot return, Landers is pleased with Mitchell’s play at the point.
“She has done a terrific job on her decision making,” he said. “She has a sense more about where we could be in some things that you haven’t seen yet.”
Ford stepped in and filled James’ role as the top rebounding guard.
Ford said, “I just went to the boards like coach told us. Go where everyone is not, and the ball just comes.”
“That is what I tell them,” agreed Landers. “Go where they ain’t. She does a little more than that.”
It was Georgia’s 41st straight win over a current Southern Conference team.