Caliya

Georgia's Caliya Robinson goes up for a layup against Texas on Dec. 3 in Stegeman Coliseum. 

The Georgia women’s basketball team’s strongest attribute this season has been its defense. On Sunday, that defense faced its toughest test of the season in No. 2 Texas.

The Georgia defense propelled the Lady Bulldogs to a 7-0 start this season before the team’s loss to Texas in Athens. Prior to Sunday’s game, Georgia ranked second in the Southeastern Conference in field goal percentage defensively, second in blocks per game, fourth in scoring defense and second in steals per game. Georgia had also limited teams to fewer than 60 points in five out of its first seven games.

The defense met its most challenging opponent of the season in Texas, which leads the nation in both scoring offense and scoring margin. Before Sunday’s game, the Longhorns were averaging 95.0 points per game and .509 in shooting percentage.

Going into the matchup, Texas head coach Karen Aston did not underestimate the strength of Georgia’s defense.

“I was concerned,” Aston said. “When you watch how they defend, they put a lot of pressure on you. They try to disrupt what you’re doing offensively.”

The Georgia defense put up numbers similar to many of its other games this season, totaling six blocks, four steals and 27 defensive rebounds in the loss.

However, the defense still allowed 81 points, the most it has allowed this season, although it is only the second-fewest points Texas has scored in a game this season.

“Our defense just wasn’t there today,” freshman Maya Caldwell said. “At times we weren’t communicating the way we were supposed to, and it wasn’t very efficient. We have a lot of work to do. We had a game plan, and we didn’t really stick to it in the first half.”

Throughout the game, Texas often capitalized off opportunities to score easily by making open threes in transition, driving to the rim and getting offensive rebounds. Against the No. 2 team in the country, those easy points added up and enabled the Longhorns to hold a large lead for much of the game.

“It’s already tough enough to stop them, so we can’t allow them to get the easy baskets too,” head coach Joni Taylor said. “You’re not going to be able to be very effective defensively when that’s happening.”

While the Georgia defense had performed well in its first six matchups, against a top-ranked team, its struggles came to the surface.

Physically, the team was ready to take on a prolific offense like Texas, Taylor said. It was the mental aspect that faltered in the game, though. The team said it will use the film from the game to examine its weaknesses defensively.

“I think it’s something that we can really grow from,” senior Mackenzie Engram said. “I think they exposed us in a lot of ways that can really help us, and I would rather lose now, learn now, and carry that on, and hopefully continue to have a better future, a better season, and take this loss as a lesson.”