With 40 combined points from seniors Maya Caldwell and Jenna Staiti, the University of Georgia women’s basketball team defeated No. 17 Kentucky, 78-66, Friday afternoon in the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament quarterfinals before 1,264 fans at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Caldwell and Staiti each tallied 20 points for No. 16 Georgia (19-5, 10-5 SEC), with Staiti hauling in 12 rebounds to notch her 12th double-double in her last 33 games. Senior guard Que Morrison pitched in with 14 points, while fellow senior guard Gabby Connally posted 13 points. Overall, the Lady Bulldogs shot 42.4 percent from the field as they advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2018.
Georgia took control of the game almost immediately, running out to a 15-2 lead seven minutes into the first quarter, led by strong scoring from Caldwell and Staiti. As the second quarter began, Kentucky (17-8, 9-6 SEC) narrowed the margin to five, but a 7-0 Lady Bulldog run returned the lead to double-digits.
The Georgia defense continued to exert its dominance, holding Kentucky scoreless for over three minutes late in the half. Meanwhile, Caldwell continued to direct the offensive attack, running her first half total up to 13 and giving the Lady Bulldogs a 35-20 lead at intermission.
With a 9-1 run to open the second half, the Wildcats brought the score to 36-29 two minutes in, but the Lady Bulldogs responded with a run of their own to rebuild their advantage. Georgia soon worked its way into the bonus, using foul shooting to create a 16-point lead with two minutes to go in the period, yet Kentucky’s outside shooting was able to make it a 58-47 game with one quarter to play.
Georgia continued to keep Kentucky at bay with foul shooting and was able to find critical buckets, including a 3-pointer from Morrison off a transition turnover and back-to-back layups from junior forward Malury Bates. Although SEC Player of the Year Rhyne Howard scored the Wildcats’ final 13 points en route to 33 overall, the Lady Bulldogs remained stout at the foul line and clinched the victory.
Georgia will face top-seeded Texas A&M (AP/Coaches No. 2 – 23-1, 13-1 SEC) in the first semifinal matchup tomorrow at 4 p.m. on ESPNU. The winner of that contest will advance to the conference championship game on Sunday at 2 p.m. on ESPN2. In the teams’ previous meeting, Texas A&M topped Georgia, 60-48, on Jan. 31 in College Station.