Everyone raved about the University of Georgia women's basketball team Thursday night after the Bulldogs disposed of UCLA, 78-42, in the semifinals of the NCAA West Regional tournament in Pauley Pavilion.
Observers were impressed with Georgia's 1-3-1, half-court trap, which suffocated the Bruins in the first half and forced 21 turnovers.
They were impressed with the Bulldogs' overall strength and quickness and ability to turn UCLA's mistakes into easy baskets.
They were impressed with the outside shooting of guards Teresa Edwards and Susie Gardner, who together hit 14 of 20 shots, and the inside play of center Janet Harris and forwards Katrina McClain and Lisa O'Connor.
Many coaches would agree that Georgia has the most talented team in the nation, but you won't see Cal State Long Beach Coach Joan Bonvicini backing down from the Bulldogs when the teams meet today for the West Regional championship.
The winner of the 3 p.m. game in Pauley Pavilion will advance to the NCAA's Final Four at Austin, Tex., next Friday.
"They have to worry about us, too," said Bonvicini, whose team advanced to the regional final for the third straight year by defeating USC, 75-72, Thursday night.
"We're also a pressure team and have a good running game. If you start worrying about what other people are going to do, it takes away from your game plan."
Long Beach may be the top-seeded team in the West and the third-ranked team in the nation, but Georgia, ranked eighth, is just as good. The teams match up well, too.
Both have good shooting guards and strong front lines. Give Long Beach the advantage in height up front. Give Georgia the edge in muscle. Both benches are deep. Both love to run.
"It should be a great game," Bonvicini said.
Long Beach will have to play better against Georgia than it did against USC to reach the Final Four for the first time. The 49ers were very good in the first half, when they built a 39-20 lead, but they let the Trojans back in the game in the second half and nearly blew the lead.
The 49ers can't afford such a letdown against the Bulldogs, and they must stay out of foul trouble. Starting guards Roslind Boger and Jackie White each picked up their fourth fouls at the 13-minute mark, and both fouled out with about four minutes left in the USC game.
White, the team's third-leading scorer at 15 points a game, played just 19 minutes. Boger, Long Beach's point guard, assist leader and best defensive player, played 18 minutes. The 49ers missed their outside shooting and ball-handling.
"I know Ros and Jackie will be ready to play today," Bonvicini said. "They don't like sitting on the bench."
Forwards Kirsten Cummings (20 points and 10 rebounds) and Cindy Brown (13 points, 9 rebounds) each had excellent games against the Trojans, as did reserve forward Carol Brandt, who scored 14 before fouling out with two minutes left.
"Even though we let USC back in the game, there was no way any team was going to beat us Thursday night," Bonvicini said. "This team wants to win more than any team I've had. They're very confident, and I think they can win any game when they put their minds to it."