NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Behind a stifling defense and a well-controlled offense, the No. 3-seed Georgia Lady Bulldogs dispatched of the No. 6-seed Missouri Tigers, 55-41, Friday evening in the Quarterfinals of the 2018 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena.
Georgia (25-5) advances to face No. 2-seed South Carolina at approximately 7 p.m., following the conclusion of the other semifinal match between Texas A&M and Mississippi State. The semifinalist appearance will mark Georgia’s first since 2013.
The Lady Bulldogs held Missouri (24-7) to just 27.1 percent shooting from the floor, while Georgia offensively shot an efficient 38.5 percent. Georgia manufactured 22 points off 14 Tiger turnovers; meanwhile, the Lady Bulldogs allowed just two points off of eight turnovers.
“The credit goes to these girls, they do everything we ask willingly,” Georgia head coach Joni Taylor said. “Missouri’s a tough team; they’re going to have a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. This was just two great teams tonight, and neither one of them wanted to lose.”
Freshman guard Que Morrison notched 16 points and four assists – both team-highs. Senior forward Mackenzie Engram registered her sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Also chipping in a double-digit performance was redshirt sophomore guard Taja Cole with 13 points. Defensively, junior forward Caliya Robinson wrecked havoc on the Tigers, accumulating six blocks and two steals to go along with her six points and six rebounds.
A hotly contested opening quarter foreshadowed the rest of the game as the Georgia defense denied the Tigers of a quality shot in the waning seconds, holding on to a 12-8 Lady Bulldog lead. Engram hit a top of the key jumper for her sixth point of the first quarter in the final minute.
Defense further intensified in the second quarter, as the lead still did not exceed four points for either team. Early on, Robinson tracked down a Tiger on a fast break and blocked a potential game-tying layup. Missouri inbounded and Robinson blocked another shot down low, got the ball, and drew a foul. On the ensuing Georgia possession, Cole converted a layup to make it 14-10. The Tigers sunk two 3-pointers bookending a Georgia layup to end the half with a slight edge at 23-20. Going into the break, Engram’s had nine points and six rebounds – both game-highs, while the Tigers held a 27.6 shooting percent.
Out of the break, both teams exchanged scores, before Cole made a layup and Robinson hit a deep jumper to retake the lead for Georgia at 26-25. The basket marked Robinson’s 1,000th career point at Georgia, becoming the 38th member of that exclusive group.
Later in the quarter, a loose-ball foul put Morrison at the line where she converted to give Georgia the then-largest lead of the game at six. A minute later, sophomore Stephanie Paul drained a 3-pointer for the 38-29 advantage. After Missouri cut it back to six points, Engram got the last points of the quarter on a gutsy put-up under the basket following her own miss.
The Tigers got the first fourth-quarter points, but Morrison quickly followed with a reverse layup from the baseline. On the following Mizzou possession, Robinson sent a Sophie Cunningham shot out of bounds for her fourth block of the game. Robinson’s fifth block came a few possessions later in which the Tigers were called for a shot-clock violation.
The final key separation for Georgia occurred at the 3:21 mark, when Robinson corralled a rebound, dished to Cole who lobbed it to Engram in transition for the 46-39 lead. In the Tiger’s next possession, Robinson swatted her sixth block on a Tigers’ drive and their succeeding inbound resulted in another shot-clock violation. The Georgia lead only lengthened from that point forward due to seven made free throws.
“We tell our young ladies, defense travels,” Taylor added. “Sometimes offense may not be going the way we want, but keep playing defense till our offense catches up. And that’s what they do every single night.”
The semifinals games will be aired on ESPNU.