Georgia (18-11, 9-7 SEC) and Arkansas (17-13, 6-10 SEC) have matched up twice already this season, with Georgia taking both games. A third game with much higher stakes will put a cap on the season series Thursday in Greenville, South Carolina.
Losses by both teams in their final regular season games Sunday ensured this matchup would take place on day one of the SEC tournament. Georgia will try to carry over momentum from a streak of five wins in its last seven to close out the regular season.
“I’m really excited for our girls,” head coach Joni Taylor said. “They have become what we thought they could be at the beginning of the year. They’re consistent now.”
One of the biggest reasons Georgia was able to rebound and take the No. 7 seed in the tournament after faltering early in the season has been Caliya Robinson, who is closing her career out with a flourish. She has also performed well in the prior matchups with Arkansas this year.
On Feb. 21, the most recent game against the Razorbacks, Robinson registered a double-double, scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. She was an impressive 8-for-14 shooting and added three blocks and two steals to her stat line.
That was one of two performances that earned her SEC Player of the Week honors two weeks ago. She has since been named first team All-SEC and found a place on the All-SEC defensive team for the third-straight season.
“Caliya’s played well down the stretch,” Taylor said. “She’s literally put us on her back and I’m excited for her to finish her senior year that way.”
Behind Robinson’s big night, Georgia took the second game of the season series 93-83. It was Gabby Connally who delivered a big 21 points and eight assists in the first matchup on Jan. 31, which Georgia won 80-72.
Another big offensive performance from someone will likely be needed, as Georgia doesn’t expect the upcoming game to be any less of a high-scoring affair.
The Razorbacks are the fifth-best scoring team in the SEC and the third best in 3-pointers made. Georgia expects more of the up and down, fast-paced action that characterized games one and two.
“Arkansas is going to be who they are,” Taylor said. “They’re one of the faster teams in our league in terms of their ability to get it out and get quick shots up. We’ve got to make sure we get to shooters quick.”
Two top-20 scorers in the SEC pace the Razorbacks offensively. Chelsea Dungee and Malica Monk lead their fast paced attack with averages of 19.5 and 13.1 points per game respectively.
The pair led the way in the Jan. 31 matchup, with Dungee scoring 28 points and Monk finishing with 19. Georgia did a much better job of containing them in game two, limiting Dungee to 18 on 4-for-15 shooting and Monk to only six points in large part to the individual defensive efforts of Georgia’s guards, specifically Que Morrison.
“I think it’s going to be a challenge,” Gabby Connally said. “But we have done it before. We just need to be prepared and just be focused on whoever has the basketball and keeping them contained.”
Georgia still has a lot left to prove this season. If the Lady Bulldogs want a chance to keep playing on the big stage the SEC Tournament offers, it will have to conquer the challenge of taking down a good opponent three times in a single season.
“You’re very familiar with each other,” Taylor said. “It’s hard to beat a team three times. Both teams are familiar with each other. It will be a chess match for sure.”