The Georgia Lady Bulldogs fell short to the No. 14-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs, 73-66, in a back-and-forth battle Sunday afternoon in Stegeman Coliseum.
Senior Stephanie Paul paced Georgia in both scoring and rebounding, recording 15 and nine respectively. Paul was one board away from recording her fourth-career double-double. Juniors Que Morrison (14) and Gabby Connally (11) joined Paul in double-figure scoring.
“You know we have it [fight],” Georgia Lady Bulldog Head Coach Joni Taylor said. “However, with a game at home that is this close, we have to come away with a win. As proud as I am about our toughness, we need to get over the hump. We have to stop just saying what our potential is and make a commitment every single day to come out and protect our home court. We need to find a way to win this basketball game. There were a lot of good things that we did but at the end of the day, we turned it over too much and we let them get too many offensive rebounds.”
Besides the early two-point lead off the first basket from Paul, Mississippi State led for nearly all of the opening five minutes of play. A 3-point shot from Morrison regained the Georgia lead, 8-7 with 5:17 to play.
After Mississippi State quickly regained and extended its lead to four, another shot from behind the arc from Morrison cut Georgia’s deficit to one. With 2:16 remaining, Mississippi State grabbed the largest lead up to that point of six, 17-11. A basket from freshman Javyn Nicholson combined with a 2:13 Mississippi scoring drought sent Georgia into the second period trailing, 17-13.
Georgia forced another Mississippi State scoring drought of 2:22 to open the second frame. Baskets from Paul and junior Maya Caldwell cut the Georgia deficit again to one, 19-18, with 7:39 to play.
Georgia regained the one point lead and extended to its largest lead up to that point, three, with 2:15 to play in the second quarter. This lead came as the result of a 9-0 Georgia run, along with a 2:58 Mississippi State scoring drought. Four different Lady Bulldogs contributed to the scoring run, including Morrison, Paul, freshman Chloe Chapman, and redshirt-sophomore Malury Bates.
Mississippi State quickly regained the advantage off a 6-0 run to send Georgia into the locker room trailing by four, 34-30.
Out of the locker room, Georgia was able to get back within one of Mississippi State on three different occasions within the first six minutes of play. With 4:10 remaining, Caldwell forced a Mississippi State turnover and Paul capitalized on the other end with a layup to give Georgia back the one-point lead, 40-39.
Mississippi State regained the advantage and extended it to four in the following possessions, but an and-one from Connally sent Georgia into the final ten minutes facing only a one point disadvantage, 48-47.
Mississippi State opened the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run to grab the largest advantage by either team up to that point of nine with 7:57 remaining. With 3:10 to play, Mississippi State went ahead by 10, 66-56, the first double-digit lead of the contest.
Connally drained two free-throws after Mississippi State committed an intentional foul with 2:26 to play. Those points along with the layup from Staiti on the following possession brought Georgia within four, 66-62, with 2:07 remaining.
Despite trading baskets for the final five minutes, Georgia was never able to get closer than four and a free-throw sealed the 73-66 Mississippi State victory.