Georgia center Jenna Staiti (14) reaches after the ball 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)

The Georgia women’s basketball team has endured a season riddled with injuries, losing streaks and many ups and downs. But through it all head coach Joni Taylor has her team in a position to fight for something more.

“When you get to this time of the year, you're always playing for something, whether it's seeding in the SEC tournament, or trying to get to .500,” Taylor said. “So you can begin to get consideration for the NCAA tournament. No matter what the situation is, this time of the year, you always feel a little bit of pressure.”

The pressure is nothing new to Taylor’s team. This season has presented many challenges and the Bulldogs have shown clear growth along the way. Facing four ranked teams in a row midway through the season and injuries to multiple players including Que Morrison and Gabby Connally have forced Georgia to adapt and overcome. 

One player, in particular, has had a very up and down journey. Junior forward Jenna Staiti is currently in the best form of her career. Staiti’s season has been a roller coaster to say the least. Her first three games included high usage and a double-double, but the next couple included limited minutes. Throughout the year, Staiti has been fighting for minutes as the Bulldogs’ starting center and through hard work and encouragement from Taylor, it is finally coming together.

“Coach Joni told me she knew I had it in me,” Staiti said. “I just think it was about me just going out and playing confident and you know, and my dad said you look like you're just playing ball.”

Staiti has led the Bulldogs in scoring in five straight games including 24 against both Missouri and LSU, respectively. She has also seen an increase in minutes over the last few games. Staiti has been given 30 plus minutes in five straight games which correlate with her scoring push.

“The more comfortable, more confident that I've gotten,” Staiti said. “I just kind of feel like not my old self but my true self.”

Staiti and the Bulldogs will take on No. 15 Kentucky on Thursday night with a chance to strengthen their resume on the road. With two games left in the season, Taylor knows how important it is to stay focused and carry momentum into the SEC tournament.

“One game at a time like we have been,” Taylor said. “I think continuing to make sure that they are locked in and they are positive as we head down the stretch. Our focus now obviously is Kentucky and preparing for that game on the road.”

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