After what has been a disappointing season thus far for the Georgia women’s basketball team, the Lady Bulldogs knew their postseason destiny was still in their hands, but they needed to win out to keep their tournament hopes alive.
Those hopes may have died Thursday night in Colonial Life Arena as the Lady Bulldogs fell 65-57 on the road to No. 11 South Carolina.
After Georgia started out hot with a 7-2 run to open the game, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley pulled all five starters: and they never looked back.
The Lady Bulldogs lost their early lead four minutes into the first quarter, and would never lead again despite keeping it close until the final seconds.
“Like I told our team, an ugly win is a win, but a good loss still counts as a loss,” Georgia head coach Joni Taylor said. “This was a night we thought we could capitalize and we did not. It’s very disappointing.”
Cracking in crunch time
While South Carolina controlling most of the game, Georgia trailed by just two with 3:45 left to go in the fourth, but that’s when the comeback fell apart.
The Lady Bulldogs offense practically froze as they only managed to score two points on one field goal in the final three and a half minutes of the game.
During that stretch, the Gamecocks went on an 8-2 run that proved to be the difference in the game.
Both frontcourts seemed like they were playing on stilts as South Carolina and Georgia combined for 11 blocked shots, with seven and four respectively. The Lady Bulldogs are used to filling up the block column this season. They came into tonight’s game leading the SEC in total blocks.
But tonight, they were out-jumped by a South Carolina squad that just so happens to be second best in the conference in that category. The Gamecocks' prowess around the rim against the Bulldogs should come as no surprise given the sheer length of the South Carolina lineup.
Of the 12 players that saw action for the Gamecocks, six of them were 6-foot or taller, with 6-foot-3 forward Alexis Jennings leading the team with three blocks of her own.
On the other side, the Bulldogs only boasted three players over 6-foot in the game.
The height difference really showed up in the rebounding stat as well, as South Carolina nearly doubled Georgia’s number, outrebounding the Bulldogs 40-26.
Unsurprisingly, the Lady Bulldogs were led offensively by their star point guard Taja Cole. The senior finished with 19 points on 8-for-18 shooting, despite spending a few minutes on the bench due to foul trouble. The game marks the 14th time in 24 games that she’s recorded double-digit points.
Georgia senior forward Caliya Robinson added to her case for SEC Defensive Player of the Year, adding three more blocks to get her season total to 56, which ranks second in the conference. She had a decent game offensively scoring seven points and grabbing five rebounds.
What it means
The loss certainly wasn’t the result the Lady Bulldogs needed if they wanted to keep any sort of chance of making the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid alive. The loss all but closes the door on a potential at-large tournament berth, but with five games remaining plus the SEC tournament left to play, this Georgia team still has a fight ahead of them.