Georgia guard Shaniya Jones (21) dribbles during a women’s basketball game against the University of Missouri on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia. The Tigers defeated the Bulldogs 73-65. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

Amidst 23 turnovers and the inability to score effectively in the paint ––– the Georgia women’s basketball team fell to No. 1 South Carolina 89-56 in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament.

There were South Carolina fans cheering and screaming from every section of the arena. The atmosphere exemplified a home game for the Gamecocks. Meanwhile, Georgia fans filled up a total of seven rows to bring some encouragement to their beloved Bulldogs. 

The Bulldogs kept it close at the beginning of the first quarter, playing solid on both ends of the floor. They trailed 10-8 going into the second period and that’s as close as they would be for the rest of the game. The Bulldogs just didn’t have the capacity to keep up as the Gamecocks were too dominate on the defensive and offensive end.

“South Carolina came out and played really hard,” head coach Joni Taylor said. “Every time we were able to make a run or cut it really close, they would turn up their defense and force us into a lot of turnovers. They made it really difficult for us to get into our offense.” 

Jenna Staiti was once again the star on the Bulldogs’ roster. She recorded her ninth-straight double-figure scoring game with 16 points and six rebounds. Staiti started out strong and had eight of Georgia’s 10 points going into the second frame. But she couldn’t keep that momentum going and only had two points in the final 20 minutes. 

The Gamecocks had uncharacteristic miscues to begin the game, but head coach Dawn Staley made changes and her bench players provided the spark they desperately needed. South Carolina’s bench scored 40 points compared to Georgia’s 17. 

“Our bench has shown up all season long to give us a boost,” Staley said. “They gave us the boost that we needed early in the game and I was happy to see them impact it in that way.”

South Carolina shot 56% from the field and were comfortable all game long in the post, especially Mikiah Herbert Harrigan who led both teams with 22 points. Because Georgia struggled in the paint, they turned to 3-pointers and shot a solid 41% from beyond the arc. However, the Gamecocks turned up the pressure. Their speed and size were too much to grasp. 

This is now Georgia’s 12th straight loss against South Carolina, including five in a row in the SEC tournament. 

This Georgia women’s basketball team features a lot of new, young players who started off rocky this season. But because Georgia plays such a tough schedule — one that ranks 13th nationally — it has allowed players like freshmen Chloe Chapman, Javyn Nicholson, and Jordan Isaacs to grow and improve. 

“We grew up this year,” Taylor said. “We had a really tough non-conference schedule and we learned a lot from that. We knew we had two returning starters from last year’s team and we thrust a lot of people into a starting role. They’re all different players now then they were at the beginning of the year.”

The Bulldogs still had a chance to make the NCAA Tournament toward the end of March. But their chances just decreased with Friday’s loss to South Carolina.

“Obviously, we want to play in the [NCAA] Tournament,” Taylor said. “A win today would’ve really helped us tremendously. If you look at our body of work over the month of February we’ve really come on strong. But it’s not my decision to make, I wish it was."

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