Dawg Lovers Delight

The age-old debate between cats and dogs rages on in the SEC

Jan. 3, 2008

By Jeff Lippman



Jeff Lippman

Jeff is CSTV.com's lead women's basketball writer.
E-mail here!

Personally, I am a dog lover.


So sorry to all you cat people out there. Don't get me wrong, those fluffy felines can be cute, but I need an animal that needs me in return.


The debate can rage on between cats and dogs with one side for those four-leggers that bark and the other for those that purr.


In the SEC, for the past four seasons, the dogs - Georgia's Bulldogs - have drooled, and the cats - LSU's Tigers - have ruled.




You can trace Georgia's frustrations back to the season before three-time All-American center Tasha Humphrey arrived in Athens. That year, 2003-04, Georgia finished 25-10 and 8-6 in conference, good enough for fifth in the mighty SEC. But Georgia would make an uplifting NCAA Tournament run that put them in the Elite Eight, one paw away from the Final Four.


Except, who was waiting for the Dawgs by the doggy door to glory? Those bad cats at LSU. The Tigers scratched and clawed and ultimately defeated Georgia by a measly two-point margin, 62-60.


It would be the first of four consecutive Final Fours for LSU; Georgia hasn't been back to the Elite Eight since.


Most people making predictions this season for the outcomes of the SEC and NCAA Tournament still like what LSU brings to the table. A Hall of Fame coach in Van Chancellor, one of the most dominant centers in the game today in 6-foot-6 Sylvia Fowles and a senior-laden lineup which has, most importantly, been there before.


CSTV women's basketball analyst Debbie Antonelli, on the other hand, has been high on Georgia since day one, while not so high on Chancellor's Tigers.


"Here's what I love about Georgia," Antonelli said. "They are undefeated, they are ranked seventh and nobody's talking about them. They have had a swagger and will have to continue to have that swagger about them."


 And how can you not be high on Georgia? Pay attention, people.


They are 13-0, one of only three remaining undefeated teams in the entire country - SEC foe Arkansas and No. 1 UConn are the other two - and have one of the best collegiate players in the history of the game in her senior season in Humphrey.


No other player has ever been named to the All-SEC first team in each of their first three seasons, and Humphrey, averaging 16 points and almost 10 boards per contest, is well on her way to making it all four years as one of the SEC's five best players.


"Humphrey is going to continue to be a big-time leader for them and their high-low game because of the development of Angel Robinson is going to carry them," Antonelli said.


Robinson is a 6-foot-5 sophomore who is dropping 11 points and grabbing nine rebounds per game, making Georgia's inside game every bit as intimidating as LSU's. And that was before Big Syl underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on her right knee. LSU expects her to miss two to four weeks and I guarantee we won't see the same dominant player for some time after that as she gets into playing shape.


With the inside presences listed above, Georgia has options. And their best option might just be keeping the ball in the hands of their tiny point guard, 5-foot-6 sophomore Ashley Houts.


Houts burst onto the scene Feb. 1 of last season when, with Georgia down one, the then-freshman nailed a three-pointer that gave the Bulldogs its biggest and most dramatic win of last season. Do you remember who their opponent was? Why yes, it was LSU.


This season, Houts has simply broken out, proving she is one of the best up-and-coming point guards in the game, and is averaging 12.1 points, 4.4 assists and 3.3 steals per outing. She plays tough defense and excellent offense to run the team.


Compared to LSU's point guard, Erica White, Houts is a regular Kobe Bryant filling the basket. And she's got more Steve Nash in her as well, dishing out almost an assist more per contest.


"I wasn't a big fan of theirs going into the season because I don't think they fixed their other problems," Antonelli said of LSU. "I picked Georgia second when everybody else was picking LSU second and Georgia third. This was before the injury to Fowles. LSU has been major-league exposed. Without Fowles in the game, you can do whatever you want against them."


Georgia and LSU meet for the first - and only, in the regular season - time on Feb. 10 in LSU's Maravich Center in Baton Rouge. The Tigers most likely expect to have their All-American Fowles back in the lineup for that game, but how effective will she be just coming off her rehab?


But forgetting about whether the dogs or the cats will win that head-to-head battle, more important to Georgia and Hall of Fame coach Andy Landers is what happens in the SEC and NCAA Tournament. 


"I like the chip on their shoulder," Antonelli said of the Dawgs. "I picked the Bulldogs to finish second in the SEC ahead of LSU, that's how good I think they are. I also believe the last regular season game, Tennessee at Georgia, will determine who wins the SEC championship."


For a team that constantly gets overshadowed by conference powerhouses like Tennessee and LSU and even sometimes Vanderbilt, and for a star senior center who constantly gets overshadowed by names like Sylvia Fowles, Candace Parker and Seimone Augustus, 2008 might finally be the year the Dawgs step out of the shadow and into the spotlight.


As the saying goes, "Every dog has its day," and UGA is long overdue.