Despite leading for close to 25 minutes, the Georgia Lady Bulldog basketball team dropped a 58-53 contest to #11 Kentucky on Sunday afternoon in Stegeman Coliseum.
With this loss, the Bulldogs conclude regular season play with an 18-11 overall record and finish 9-7 in SEC play. Georgia won five of its last seven games to end the regular season.
On senior day, Georgia’s sole senior, forward Caliya Robinson, filled out the stat sheet, recording a team-high eight rebounds along with three steals, four blocks, three assists, and nine points.
Sophomore Gabby Connally led the Bulldogs in scoring, recording 18 points, including four baskets from behind the arc. Redshirt-junior Taja Cole continued to get her teammates involved in scoring, racking up a game-high nine assists. Redshirt-sophomore Jenna Staiti tacked on an additional three blocks.
“You always wish that a senior would win their last game,” Associate Head Coach Karen Lange said. “That’s what we were hoping for. I think Kentucky did a good job on her in a zone- they neutralized her. She has meant so much for our program. It’s exactly what Joni wants for our program- which is to keep the best players from Georgia in Georgia playing and competing for us. I think if you talk to her, I think it was a great decision for her to be at the University of Georgia. We have loved having her here. She has done everything we have asked of her. It has been a double positive results on both ends.”
Kentucky scored first, but three consecutive steals led to six fast break points to give Georgia an early 7-2 lead. Two back-to-back baskets from Kentucky tied it, 7-all, but another steal from Morrison and an assist to Robinson gave Georgia a two-point advantage with three minutes remaining. Kentucky would tie it once more but Georgia led 13-11 at the end of one quarter.
A 7-0 Georgia run, highlighted by three baskets from junior Stephanie Paul and one from Connally, gave Georgia a 24-20 leads in the second period. Paul made a huge difference off the bench in the second quarter, tallying six points in eight minutes of play, two of which came back-to-back. Despite it being a one-point game with just over two minutes to play in the second quarter, two made free throws by Robinson sent Georgia into the locker room leading by three, 26-23.
Georgia’s first points of the second half were the result of a 3-pointer from Connally after a three-minute scoring drought. With just over two minutes to play, the Wildcats got within one of the Bulldogs, but a 3-point basket from freshman Donnetta Johnson extended Georgia’s lead to four. Despite Kentucky countering with a trey of its own, a basket from Cole followed by her steal and a dish to Robinson gave Georgia its largest lead of the third period, 39-34.
The Wildcats scored four-straight baskets in the opening minutes of the fourth period to give them their first lead of the second half, 43-39. Back-to-back 3-point baskets from Connally rallied Georgia, bringing them within one of the Wildcats with 1:42 remaining. Kentucky and Georgia exchanged 3-pointers, but the Lady Bulldogs could not overcome the deficit.
Up next, Georgia will travel to Greenville, South Carolina for the SEC Tournament. Georgia will begin play on Thursday, Mar. 7.