Experience abounds as Lady Bulldogs enter tourney

Including his four years at Roane State, Andy Landers has won 902 games in his career, 820 of them at Georgia.

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Including his four years at Roane State, Andy Landers has won 902 games in his career, 820 of them at Georgia.

When Georgia and Montana take the court Saturday in the first round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, there won’t be a lack of experience or know-how behind either team.

The Lady Bulldogs and Lady Griz are coached by Andy Landers and Robin Selvig, respectively. Between them is 73 years of coaching experience, 1,700 wins and 50 NCAA tournament bids.

Including his four years at Roane State, Landers has won 902 games in his career, 820 of them at Georgia. Selvig has won 798 games in 35 seasons at Montana. Their teams will meet in the first round of the NCAA tournament at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The Lady Bulldogs (25-6) are seeded fourth in the Spokane, Wash., regional. The Lady Griz (24-7) are seeded 13th.

As one might expect, the veteran coaches have crossed paths before. Georgia defeated Montana 74-46 in the opening round of the 2000 NCAA tournament in Athens, and Landers said he and Selvig have met on the recruiting trail a number of times over the years.

“This is a guy I’ve known and respected for a long time,” said Landers, who’s leading Georgia into the NCAA for the 30th time and 19th in a row. “He’s a class act. You don’t stay somewhere as long as he has and have a lot of flaws. Sooner or later they’ll find you out. He’s really an excellent basketball coach, very well-respected by everyone in the basketball community.”

That’s all well and good from a trivial standpoint, but both of these coaches are more interested in recording their next win than in talking about how many they already have. And that’s especially important for Landers, who was more than a little unhappy from his team’s early tournament exit last year.

Georgia also was awarded a No. 4 seed last year and drew 13th-seeded Marist in the first round in Tallahassee, Fla. The Lady Bulldogs lost 76-70 for a rare one-and-done NCAA appearance.

The loss broke a streak of consecutive Sweet Sixteens for Georgia, which has played in five Final Fours and two national championship games. This season’s veteran-laden team did not like last year’s feeling.

“One thing we definitely took away from that is you can’t overlook anyone,” said guard Jasmine James, one of five seniors on the UGA roster. “You have to understand that no matter what conference a team comes from and no matter what their record is, you just can’t look at it. At the end of the day, a team doesn’t have to be better than you for five or six games. They just need one night.”

Montana is the type of dangerous opponent that can give a team fits on a given night. The Grizzlies have shot 33 percent from 3-point range and boast three players who have shot 37 percent or better from beyond the arc, including long-range specialist Shanae Gilham (44 percent). They also take good care of the ball.

“They’re a very disciplined basketball team that plays very well together,” Landers said. “They always utilize the 3-point shot and try to create an advantage with that.”

Conversely, Montana must deal with Georgia’s superior athletic ability. The Lady Bulldogs are led by 6-foot-2 post player Jasmine Hassell (12.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg).

“I’d like to think we’ve played against some pretty quick teams this year, but nobody probably as athletic as these guys,” Selvig told the Billings Gazette. “Rebounding is the thing that comes to mind always. They’re strong, they’re athletic and they’re a strong rebounding team. When you step up and go against SEC-type athletes, rebounding is a challenge.”

Georgia’s mission is not to give the Lady Griz a chance. The Lady Bulldogs see this year’s tournament as an opportunity to get back on track. Last year’s quick exit was only the second time in 10 years they were sent home after one game.

Landers’ team left for Spokane on Wednesday, and he instructed the team to pack for 10 days.

“Going into a tournament with coach Landers definitely gives you confidence,” James said. “He understands what it takes to win. He’s seen it all. So whatever he says, we trust in it.

“It’s been a great experience to learn from him and play under him, and we look forward to winning with him.”