On Sunday afternoon, Georgia women’s basketball hosted the No. 25 Tennessee Lady Vols at home in Stegeman Coliseum. The Bulldogs took the Volunteers to double overtime before clinching the 81-78 win. This game is arguably Georgia’s biggest win to date.
Here are three key factors that led to Georgia’s win.
Caliya Robinson’s personal motivation
After an impressive nonconference start to the season, which included a 30-point performance against Minnesota in November and a 24-point, 11-rebound showing in December against Samford, Caliya Robinson has been quiet since Southeastern Conference play began in January.
Now in February, in the heart of conference play, Robinson might have gotten her rhythm back.
Last week, Georgia took on Arkansas on the road. Robinson came off the bench to lead the Bulldogs’ offense with 20 points, after previously only scoring nine total points in Georgia’s last four games combined.
Then, on Sunday against Tennessee, it was again Robinson leading the team with 28 points through a little personal motivation of competitiveness.
“I took this game actually personal and I knew I had to come out and bust my butt,” Robinson said following the game. “I grew up playing with Te’a [Cooper] and Diamond [DeShields], it was personal because I know them pretty well.”
Robinson proved to be a difficult match-up for the Lady Vols’ defense, as she has for other opponents this season.
“[Robinson] was awesome tonight, she was just burying us in the paint,” Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick said. “I just thought she was outstanding tonight. She didn’t really do too many things that were bad, she was solid.”
Georgia changes up defensive strategy in double overtime
Through the majority of the game, if not all of regulation leading up to the second overtime, Georgia played Tennessee in man defense.
Tennessee's Diamond DeShields was virtually unstoppable in a man set up, hitting contested shots all across the court. DeShields ended the game with 34 points for Tennessee.
“[DeShields] took the tough shots, they were all contested,” Robinson said. “She was one of the pieces that we had to put a hold on because we knew that she was going to come out here and do amazing.”
Breaking the huddle before the second overtime, Georgia dropped into a zone defense that doubled and trapped Tennessee’s Mercedes Russell, the 6-foot-6 center who accounted for 24 of the Volunteers’ points on the night.
“[Georgia] switched up their defense late in one of the overtimes and I think that rattled us a little bit,” DeShields said. “They went into some type of zone that we weren’t anticipating them going to.”
Haley Clark runs the offense
Georgia’s junior point guard, Haley Clark, might never be the player that jumps out at you off a stat sheet, but head coach Joni Taylor said that isn’t her game.
And following Sunday’s win, Taylor had high praise for Clark.
“If we do not have Haley Clark, we do not win a game this year,” Taylor said. “It isn’t about stats for Haley, she runs our team. She plays 40 minutes every single night unless she gets in foul trouble.”
Clark ended the night with two points, but those two points are what sent Georgia into overtime. With 2.3 seconds on the clock, Clark drove into the lane and laid the ball in to tie the Lady Vols and give Georgia a fighting chance to win in overtime.
While a lot of spectators might look at Georgia’s win over Tennessee and overlook Clark’s contribution, Taylor definitely isn’t.
“She is an extremely tough kid," Taylor said. "I’m on her hard because I want her to run and manage the game and she responds to every challenge we give her. She is the engine that makes us go.”