At times, it seems like the same Georgia women's basketball team isn’t playing in every game.
An up-and-down season has put several different versions of the Lady Bulldogs on display, some have been good, and others have left a lot to be desired.
The way the team that went into Starkville and almost upset No. 6 Mississippi State played barely resembled the team that took the court on Jan. 27 and shot only 29 percent in a loss to Alabama.
In an overtime loss to Auburn on Feb. 3, the bad version showed up, blowing a double-digit fourth quarter lead and turning the ball over 28 times. A week later, the good version was able to bounce back.
On Sunday Georgia showed up and blew the Florida Gators out wire to wire, putting perhaps the best version of this team we’ve seen this season on display.
“This has definitely been one of our best games, one of our most consistent games,” Maya Caldwell said. “We had nine turnovers the whole game. We went out there, we cleaned it up and we looked good.”
A little bit of mid-week soul searching, led both by the coaching staff and players, did the team a world of good.
“We came back after Auburn and had a hard look in the mirror and talked about a lot of things,” head coach Joni Taylor said. “We sat in film Tuesday and we had a conversation. I started it off and Caliya [Robinson] picked it up right behind me.”
The team discussed what they were doing wrong, and instead of focusing on the negative, hashed out what each of them was going to change to make it better.
“The frustration is we’re killing ourselves the same way every single game,” Taylor said. “At some point you have to stop hitting yourself over the head with the same brick. Either you change it, or you don’t, and if you don’t our season is going to go down the drain.”
The good week of practice suggested that a good game might be on the way. Whatever was changed, it worked, and the version of the Lady Bulldogs that took on Florida executed in a way we’ve seen flashes of this season, but never consistently throughout an entire game.
Robinson and Taja Cole both had monster games, scoring 17 and 14 respectively. Robinson added 12 rebounds and Cole had 12 assists, a season high. Robinson was a key catalyst early as Georgia jumped out to a hot start, scoring the first seven points and starting the game 3-for-3.
“Caliya got us off to a really good start,” Caitlin Hose said. “When she’s playing that well it just opens things up for everybody else.”
With that pair leading the way, the other players on the roster performed well in their complementary roles. Caldwell and Que Morrison both scored in double-digits and five other players scored five or more points.
Morrison was expected to be a big contributor for Georgia this season, but a preseason injury derailed her sophomore season. She had her best game of the season, scoring 11 and producing four steals. She looked a lot more like the player Georgia expected to have in its starting lineup at the beginning of the year.
“She hustles no matter what,” Caldwell said. “Que doesn’t take any plays off and the fact that she has on a brace, a sleeve, kneepads, and she’s still out there helping us win, that lets you know how committed she is to this team.
The team shot over 58 percent from the field in the game on its way to scoring 93 points, the most Georgia has scored against an SEC opponent since 2013. The offensive success did nothing to slow down Georgia’s defense, its strength all year. The Gators shot only 35 percent and committed 18 turnovers.
The most telling stats might be Robinson and Cole’s minutes.
Robinson only played 24 minutes and Cole, who frequently stays on the court for the whole 40, played 34. They weren’t resting because they were injured, they weren’t benched for doing something wrong. They didn’t play because Georgia was so far ahead that it didn’t need them. And the level of play reached on Sunday is one that would make Georgia a dangerous team if it is sustained.
“Our focus has changed,” Robinson said. “One of the things we talked about was the way everybody comes into practice and the way practices are. It’s been good for this past week. I think if we keep bringing the energy every day, we’ll be fine.”