A 15-2 run early in the second half propelled No. 17 Mississippi State past the No. 19 Georgia Lady Bulldogs, 64-56, in both teams’ SEC opener on Friday afternoon.
Monticello, Miss., native Tiaria Griffin led Georgia with 13 points, 11 in the first half. Freshman Mackenzie Engram added 11 points, all in the second half, and a game-high nine rebounds.
State got 43 points from its bench, with Kendra Grant, Breanna Richardson and Morgan William all scoring 11 and Martha Alwal chipping in 10.
Georgia (12-2, 0-1 SEC) grabbed a 32-31 lead early in the second stanza on a Krista Donald layup before State (16-0, 1-0 SEC) surged ahead by 12 points just 3:48 later.
The Lady Bulldogs cut the margin to single digits several times and were within 56-51 with 3:24 remaining. Georgia failed to convert on a chance to pull closer before State closed out the game connecting on 8-of-10 free throws down the stretch.
“We played hard and we made some plays and we left some plays on the table,” head coach Andy Landers said. “We’ve just got to continue to work hard and grow. We got beat by a good basketball team today. We played well enough to win.”
The majority of the first half was a one-possession game. State grabbed the largest advantage either team enjoyed in the opening period when Richardson scored all the points in a 7-1 run that made it 19-13 with 6:37 on the clock.
Donald ended the surge with a layup and Georgia responded with a 13-6 spurt of its own. The Lady Bulldogs moved ahead 26-25 on a 3-pointer by Griffin at the 2:16 mark but that lead was short-lived. State ended the first-half scoring on a stickback by Grant with one second on the clock and led 31-28 at the break.
The Lady Bulldogs scored the first four points of the second stanza to regain the lead, but State answered with its decisive run.
State’s bench outscored Georgia 43-16 and it also owned a 34-18 edge in points in the paint.
Georgia will return to action on Sunday, when the Lady Bulldogs host Alabama in their SEC home opener at 1 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum. That’s the first outing of a two-game homestand which also features Missouri visiting Athens next Thursday (Jan. 8) at 7 p.m.
Single-game reserved seat tickets for Lady Bulldog games are $5 for adults and $3 for children. UGA students, faculty and staff are admitted to all Lady Bulldog games free of charge with a valid UGA Card. Faculty and staff should pick up tickets at the Coliseum box office. Students are admitted to the arena via the entrance to the left of the box office by showing their UGA Card.
Single-game tickets are on sale via georgiadogs.com, by calling 877-542-1231 or in person at the UGA Ticket Office in the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall from 8:30-4:30 on weekdays. In addition, single-game tickets go on sale at the Stegeman Coliseum box office (closest to Sanford Drive) beginning 60 minutes before tip-off of every home game.
• Georgia used the same starting five for the 14th time in as many games this season, with Shacobia Barbee (74th career start), Merritt Hempe (49th career start), Krista Donald (47th career start), Tiaria Griffin (37th career start) and Marjorie Butler (19th career start) getting the nod.
• Tiaria Griffin led Georgia with a game-high 13 points, the sixth time she’s paced UGA offensively this season.
• Griffin reached double figures for the 10th time this season, a team-high tally.
• Freshman Mackenzie Engram scored 11 points, her fifth double of the season.