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Georgia guard Que Morrison (23) dribbles. The University of Georgia women’s basketball team defeated the University of South Carolina Upstate 67-53 in regular time on Nov. 26, 2019, in Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

The Georgia women’s basketball team lost 73-66 to No. 14 Mississippi State in Athens Sunday. Georgia is now 1-1 in SEC play, and this marks the third loss to a top-ranked team this season.

Mississippi State played tough defense, and Georgia couldn’t muster up the offensive strength to win. Even though Georgia took its first SEC loss, there’s optimism among the players. 

“There’s a lot of confidence here,” junior guard Que Morrison said.

Morrison was one of three players with double-digit points, scoring 14 and joining senior Stephanie Paul and junior Gabby Connally, who each had 15 and 11 respectively.

The first quarter ended 17-13 in favor of Mississippi State, showing that the competition was tough but not out of reach for the Bulldogs. Georgia tried to attack the rim quickly and often, while Mississippi State choose to rely on long drives with many passes to help their players reach the goal post.

Down 26-20 with under five minutes left in the half, the Bulldogs performed under the pressure. After a free throw for the Bulldogs, a defensive steal lead to crisp jump shot and six more unanswered points. The Bulldogs were up 29-26, their largest lead of the game, but Georgia loosened their grip. The half ended 34-30, with Mississippi State taking the lead.

The last of the game’s seven lead changes came in the third quarter. A steal by Maya Caldwell lead to an assist by Paul and put Georgia up 40-39. Mississippi State then called a timeout with 4:03 left in the third.

Following the timeout, Caldwell caught a half-court lob and took it to the basket. To the dismay of the fans inside Stegeman Coliseum, Caldwell’s layup was ruled the product of an offensive charge.

Connally capped off a tough third quarter by draining the last seconds until she blew by defenders to score with just over one second left. Following a free throw, Connally brought the score closer for the beginning of the fourth, a 48-47 Mississippi State lead.

Head coach Joni Taylor said in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, her team made some “uncharacteristic mistakes.”

It might have been an understatement. Mississippi State started the final quarter with an 8-0 run. Two made free throws from Connally with 2:26 left brought the gap down to six. But the Bulldogs couldn’t shorten the deficit below four points, and they ended up losing the game by seven.

Taylor expressed her disappointment in the team’s 16 turnovers, as well as their lack of offensive rebounds, only grabbing three compared to Mississippi State’s 14.

“We’re continuing to grow as a basketball team, which is positive. … Almost every game we play from here on out is a [one] possession game. Those little things matter,” Taylor said.

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