Down by 21 points in the first half, the No. 14-ranked Georgia Lady Bulldog basketball team used a furious comeback to defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide, 72-68, Sunday afternoon at Stegeman Coliseum.
Graduate guard Que Morrison led Georgia in scoring with 21 points, shooting perfectly from behind the arc (3-for-3) and the free-throw line (4-for-4). Sunday’s game marks Morrison’s fourth consecutive double-digit performance. Graduate center Jenna Staiti followed in points with 17. Defensively, Staiti tallied nine rebounds and five blocks, a high in SEC play.
The Lady Bulldogs improve to 13-3 overall and 2-2 in the SEC. Georgia has now won five-straight games against Alabama.
“They want to do well,” said head coach Joni Taylor. “They want to play for each other. They want to win. They want to achieve success. Whatever it looks like, whoever is out there is going to give you their best. They’re not perfect, but they play really hard. They’re going to lock in and do the things you ask them to do.”
Morrison kicked off the offense for Georgia, scoring a quick five points in just the first minute. Alabama picked up the pace and went on a 10-2 run to lift their lead to 10-7 with 6:49 remaining in the first period. For the last six minutes, the Crimson Tide showed their dominance on offense. Georgia ended the quarter down by nine.
Alabama stayed hot offensively in the second quarter with an early 6-4 run to increase their lead, 30-19. Despite Georgia being down, Staiti notched two blocks while Morrison led in scoring with six points. Alabama extended their lead and ended the half ahead, 48-29.
Led by Mikayla Coombs, who scored two back-to-back fast-break layups, Georgia found its way offensively in the third quarter. Overall, Coombs scored nine points, followed by Staiti who notched eight. The Lady Bulldog defense kept the Crimson Tide from scoring a basket until the 6:46 mark. From there, Georgia locked down and only allowed them eight points. The Lady Bulldogs’ offensive rhythm continued with an impressive 12-2 run.
Alabama led 56-50 going into the final quarter.
Georgia went on an early 6-1 run, closing the deficit to a one-point game. Sophomore Zoesha Smith came in off the bench to score six more points to tie it, 60-60. She went 2-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 from the line. Georgia took the lead back at the 3:15 mark off a layup from Coombs, assisted by Morrison. From there, the court went back-and-forth between the rivals.
In the final 1:30 of the game, Morrison and Staitit were both fouled and put away four free throws, sealing a 72-68 win for the Lady Bulldogs.
Head Coach Joni Taylor:
On the adjustments made at halftime…
“It definitely wasn’t a coincidence. Alabama is very good at running in transition, getting to the rim and shooting the three. That is what they do, and we gave them what they did. Credit to them that they came out, and they executed their game plan. I think a couple things for us. Number one, I was probably being a little stubborn. Initially, if they’re going to play their four guards, then we’re going to run our two bigs. We’re going to try and get it inside, but we were doing a terrible job of getting the ball inside. We were settling for jump shots, taking quick shots, taking shots that weren’t in our offense, so they didn’t have a rhythm to it. We weren’t able to go rebound the ball, and I probably stuck with that too long. The adjustment was we went four guards, obviously, in the third and fourth quarter. We did a better job of taking switches and running them off the three-point line. They got four in the third and fourth quarter, which is what we should have been able to do in the first and second quarter. Again, I can’t say enough for Kristy Curry to have lost what she lost last year in those seniors and to be able to have this team playing at the level they are. They’re really good. They’re going to be another tournament team this year, and they really challenged us today.”
On the comeback and how to not go down by a deficit early… “Their mentality, they believe. They’ve done it enough to believe it’s possible. Like you said, we have to stop putting ourselves in that situation. Again, I’m going to take some of that because we should have made an adjustment sooner instead of waiting until halftime to go four guards. I was being stubborn, so that’s on me. I’ll take some of that. We should have made an adjustment quicker, but we have fight to us. They want to do well. They want to play for each other. They want to win. They want to achieve success. Whatever it looks like, whoever is out there is going to give you their best. They’re not perfect, but they play really hard. They’re going to lock in and do the things you ask them to do.”
On Zoesha Smith…
“It’s been huge. She came in, and she’s that guard who played that four a little bit today. Her and Sarah Ashlee (Barker) shared that responsibility. She continues to practice every single day, and we continue to ask her to continue to lock in from a scouting report standpoint, what it is we’re doing. She’s somebody who shoots it well enough on the perimeter that they need to come out and guard her. She rebounds the heck out of the basketball. She has length. She’s super athletic. For Zoesha (Smith), it’s shoulders and up. Her attention to detail is what has allowed her to get on the floor recently because she’s been locked in. If she continues to be locked in, we’re going to find some time for her because she changes the game just like at Florida when she went in. She changes the game when she plays.”
On if the leaders on the team speak as much as the coaches at times… “It’s both. We take a minute before we go in and talk as coaches. That’s their time to talk. Sometimes we come in and say, ‘What have y’all discussed?’
Sometimes it’s written on the board when we come in what they discussed. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes we don’t ask at all because we know it’s going to happen. Sometimes the adjustments we’re going to make, they’ve already talked about the same things, or I’ll have Jenna (Staiti) come up and say that we can really run this because of how they’re playing me, or Que (Morrison) will say that this is how it works. It’s a little bit of both to be honest. It helps for so many of them to have been in these situations that they believe.”