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Georgia guard Que Morrison (23) laughs with Georgia guard Maya Caldwell (11) after a NCAA women’s basketball game on Sunday, January 19, 2020 at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia. Georgia defeated Auburn 61-50. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

Before concerns about the outbreak of COVID-19 caused an indefinite hold on the sports world, the Georgia women’s basketball team played its last game and lost 89-56 to No. 1 South Carolina in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament on March 6.

In the first matchup between the two, owning home court didn’t help the Bulldogs, as they lost by 35 points in Stegeman Coliseum on Jan. 26. While Greenville, South Carolina, was technically a neutral location for the tournament, the Gamecocks repeated their dominant performance over the Bulldogs in front of a packed South Carolina crowd.

Here are The Red & Black’s postseason takeaways from Georgia women’s basketball’s 17-14 (7-9 SEC) season.

Difficult schedule

Georgia’s season-ending loss was the 12th straight against the Gamecocks. South Carolina has won five of the last six SEC tournaments and hasn’t lost to Georgia since Jan. 13, 2013.

An upset over the Gamecocks wasn’t expected due to Georgia’s shortcomings against ranked teams. The Bulldogs had the No. 13 strength of schedule, and they were only able to defeat one ranked team out of the 10 they faced. 

Six of those matchups were against top-10 teams, and Georgia was the only team in the nation to play both No. 1 South Carolina and No. 2 Baylor.

Looking for depth

Georgia’s inability to play competitively for a full game against ranked opponents boiled down to a lack of roster depth. Outside of juniors Jenna Staiti and Gabby Connally, there were no Bulldogs who averaged more than 10 points per game.

Connally scored in double figures in the last five games and averaged 12.7 points per game overall. She shot 34% from 3-point range and collected 109 assists. But she also recorded 100 turnovers — something that plagued Georgia all season.

Staiti showed improvement throughout the season. Four of her six double-double performances came in conference play, after only recording one prior to this season. In an eight-game stretch before South Carolina, Staiti averaged 20.3 points and 9.9 rebounds. Overall, Staiti averaged 11.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.

Besides Staiti and Connally, junior Que Morrison was crucial to Georgia’s defensive identity. She was recognized and voted to the SEC All-Defensive team after a season ending shoulder injury she suffered against Texas A&M on Feb. 20.

Looking ahead

Georgia will be without Stephanie Paul and Ari Henderson next season. Paul started all 30 games, averaged 6.5 points and made 40% of her shots from the field, while Henderson only competed in five games. Georgia’s top four scorers — Connally, Staiti, Maya Caldwell and Morrison — will return.

Alongside those four, Georgia will also be asking more of the sophomores, such as Chloe Chapman. With the additions of four-star guard prospect Sarah Ashlee Barker from Birmingham, Alabama and the No. 23 ranked forward prospect Zoesha Smith from Brunswick, Georgia, the Bulldogs have ambitions for the 2020-21 season.

Joni Taylor is two wins away from 100 career head coaching wins, and Georgia is three wins shy of 1,000 as a women’s basketball program.

While history will likely be made, Taylor wants more than a record out of her team next year. She wants a trip to the NCAA tournament. Georgia’s last trip was in 2018 when it lost to No. 5 Duke in the second round.

The Bulldogs are returning a roster that has experienced trips to the NCAA tournament and disappointing seasons.

“We grew up this year,” Taylor said after the loss to South Carolina. “They’re all different players now then they were at the beginning of the year.”

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