The Georgia women's basketball team is in desperate need of positive results as the season winds down. With the SEC tournament right around the corner, the team will face one of the toughest tests on its schedule when it travels to take on No. 11 South Carolina Thursday night.
A trip to Columbia presents several different challenges. First and foremost is the elite team that will take the court opposite Georgia.
South Carolina’s 9-1 conference record is good for second place in the SEC, the team’s only conference loss coming on the road to the current first-place team, Mississippi State. It ranks third in the SEC in points scored and fourth in field-goal percentage, and its offense comes from multiple sources. Four Gamecock players average over 9.7 points per game.
“They’re really good,” head coach Joni Taylor said. “[Head coach] Dawn [Staley] always puts a really good team on the floor. They get up and down and they also have the ability to score in the half court. They’ve got so many weapons, we’re going to have our hands full for sure.”
The talented team Georgia must overcome will only be bolstered by what is one of the best home court advantages in women’s college basketball. Last season, South Carolina averaged over 13,000 fans each home game, best in the country.
For a Georgia team receiving significant minutes from several young players, conquering the crowd is going to be key.
“They draw a lot of fans, fans that really hate their opponent,” Taja Cole said. “It’s going to be loud there, everybody’s going to be against us. We just really have to stick together. Stick together, play hard, and understand that would be a big win for us if we can get it.”
Georgia will take confidence from the fact that they have been in similar situations this season. Earlier in the year, they went into Starkville and nearly knocked off Mississippi State, currently the No. 5 team in the nation.
“Being able to play in an environment like Mississippi State, we already have the experience,” Jenna Staiti said. “Being able to stay calm and collected in the environment we know we’re going into at South Carolina is something we need to recognize and practice.”
Staiti expects loud music to be a staple of practice this week as the team prepares to try and end a nine game losing streak to South Carolina and salvage its season. The last time Georgia won on the road in Columbia was 2012, a 61-59 victory.
With postseason play rapidly approaching, Georgia is in desperate need of every victory it can get. The team hoped to be in a much better position heading into the season’s final weeks, but the opportunity some of its remaining matchups offer to regain lost ground isn’t lost on anyone around the program.
“We can’t get back the games that we played,” Cole said. “These next five games are very important. This week I sent a text out to my teammates and just let them know that we really have to focus and lock in these next three days. If we can get that win Thursday, that would be huge. It will put us in a very good position.”