Commentary

Sydney Carter's defense key for Aggies

Originally Published: March 26, 2011
By Mechelle Voepel | ESPN.com

You can expect that Georgia's Jasmine James will be very familiar with Texas A&M's Sydney Carter after Sunday's Dallas Region semifinal. And in this case, familiarity is likely to breed some contempt.

If you're a guard leading your team in scoring and you face the Aggies, it's hard not to find Carter annoying. Because she is Texas A&M's relentless defensive stopper on the perimeter. Her goal is to make you wish the game was over, just to get her out of your hair. And much of the time, she achieves that goal.

[+] EnlargeSydney Carter
AP Photo/Jon EiltsSydney Carter and second-seeded Texas A&M are in the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years.

"She's our best defensive player, has been for a couple of years," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said at Saturday's media session in Dallas leading into Sunday's game between the No. 2 seed Aggies and sixth-seeded Georgia (ESPN2, 4:30 p.m. ET).

"She can relieve [Sydney] Colson at the point guard. But she's not really what I really like as a true point guard."

That's because Blair would prefer Carter, a 5-foot-6 junior from DeSoto, Texas, not have to be responsible for running the offense, since she has such great responsibility on defense.

"I do not want to take anything away from Carter thinking about how to stop the other team's best player on the perimeter," Blair said. "And she has that excitement anywhere from [guarding players] 6-1 on down to 5-6, which she is. And she will always be on the other team's best perimeter player."

For Georgia, that's James, a 5-9 sophomore out of Memphis, Tenn., who is averaging 12.3 points and 3.6 assists per game. She got the putback that provided the winning points for Georgia in its second-round upset of third-seeded Florida State.

But Carter and the Aggies also have to keep tabs on freshman Khaalidah Miller, Georgia's top 3-point shooter with 50 this season. Georgia is certainly not what you'd call a high-octane offensive team, averaging 64.4 points a game. But that's still more than the Aggies have been allowing their opponents (57.6).

Porsha Phillips, a 6-2 senior forward, is Georgia's top interior threat. Blair said that while Georgia doesn't have that one player with big offensive numbers, that doesn't mean it's easier to defend. In fact, it might be tougher.

"You worry about Georgia as a whole instead of trying to stop one individual like at Rutgers," Blair said of the Aggies' second-round foe. "We went in trying to stop April Sykes. We held her to 14 in the first half, 21 overall. But we shut down the rest of them. And with Georgia, they're all capable of scoring."

The Aggies are all very capable of that, too. Carter is not just a defensive specialist; she's averaging 10.3 points, too. But her defense is her headline quality. She has faced some of the top guards in the country this season, including, Duke's Jasmine Thomas, Oklahoma's Danielle Robinson and Baylor's Odyssey Sims. She is respectful of the fact that Georgia and James are going to provide some challenges.

"I just think quick is about to meet quick in this game," Carter said, adding of James, "I think I'm going to have a tough matchup, because she can kind of pull up off the dime. She does a really good job of running her team, and I think their guards do a great job of attacking. They kind of play the same style we play."

Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com. Read her blog at http://voepel.wordpress.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.