IOWA CITY, Iowa — Javyn Nicholson knew Georgia had to “make sure we are playing Georgia basketball” to advance to the second round.
Tenth-seeded Georgia did exactly that Friday, eking out a 66-54 win against seventh-seeded Florida State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“Our star is the defense, not the offense,” Georgia coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said.
The defensive-oriented Lady Bulldogs held the Seminoles to 27% shooting from the field and 28% shooting from 3-point range en route to the win.
The Georgia defense was especially effective in the second half, as FSU shot only 23% after intermission.
“Most teams struggle with the pressure because it is a zone, and we pressure the ball really well,” guard Diamond Battles said. “We offset their offense and what they try to do in their offense.”
That resulted in a defense that from an opponent’s perspective seemed to be “all over the place,” FSU guard Taylor O’Brien said.
“Finding easy and open shots was very difficult for us,” O’Brien said.
Florida State knew what to expect from Georgia’s zone defense, yet it still baffled the Seminoles.
“We knew exactly what they were going to do,” Florida State coach Brooke Wyckoff said. “They play 100% zone. They know what they are doing in their zone. There’s no question.”
Friday’s game remained close until Georgia pulled away with a 12-0 run to open the fourth quarter.
“They were getting tips,” Abrahamson-Henderson said of her defense in that stretch. “They were pressuring the ball harder.”
Georgia then held a comfortable lead for the rest of the game.
Florida State led for most of the first half before Georgia’s offense eventually caught some momentum. After starting the game 5-for-20, the Lady Bulldogs ended the half 9-for-15. They had a 35-30 halftime lead.
Georgia shot 40% from the field and 42% on 3-point shots and committed 17 turnovers versus 15 assists.
Guard Diamond Battles scored a team-high 21 points on 7-for-16 shooting.
“Diamond wasn’t allowed to just catch-and-shoot,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “Everything she had to get was going to the basket, drawing fouls, doing those kind of things.”
Guard/forward Audrey Warren scored 11 points, and forward Jordan Isaacs scored 10 for Georgia.
“Jordan did a phenomenal job on both ends this game,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “She was our unsung hero tonight. She was getting tips when they were catching it at the high post. She was pressuring really hard.”
The Lady Bulldogs were benefactors of Florida State’s especially short bench.
The Seminoles entered Friday’s game with only eight available players, and forward Makayla Timpson’s hit to the face meant they had only seven available for much of the first half.
Florida State was without honorable-mention All-American Ta’Niya Latson and fellow guard O’Mariah Gordon because of season-ending injuries.
“It’s tough mentally,” Florida State forward Erin Howard said. “But … we’ve been here before. So we are used to it. I don’t really think it was a stamina thing at the end of the day.”
Friday’s win marks the third consecutive year in which Georgia advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Georgia will face No. 2-seeded Iowa, which had a 95-43 blowout win over No. 15-seeded Southeastern Louisiana, at 3 p.m. Eastern time Sunday on ABC.
“We have to play with each other and play hard together,” Abrahamson-Henderson said.
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