After trailing by three points at the half, the No. 24-ranked Georgia Lady Bulldogs basketball team used a strong second half to down the Auburn Tigers 60-48 in front of a crowd of 5,012 at Stegeman Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.
The Lady Bulldogs improve to 17-2, marking the best start for Georgia since the 2009-10 NCAA Sweet 16 team went 18-1 in its first 19 games. The Georgia defense held Auburn (10-9, 1-6) to its least amount of points in conference play.
“Let’s give Auburn credit, they did a great job defensively and keeping us rattled,” Georgia head coach Joni Taylor said. “They know exactly who they are, what their identity is, and they stick to it. They had us rattled in the first half. On the flip side of that, we settled in and came out at halftime. The defensive end is where it started.”
Senior forward Mackenzie Engram headlined Georgia with 22 points and eight rebounds, recording her third-straight 20-point outing this season. The Powder Springs native has registered double-digit scoring performances in all but four games this season.
“We handled their pressure much better in the second half,” Engram said. “Then we picked it up on the defensive side. Once we were able to handle their press and force them to turnover and break on those turnovers, I think that really helped us out.”
Joining Engram were redshirt sophomore Taja Cole and senior Haley Clark, who provided 10 and eight points, respectively, with all but two Clark points coming in the second half.
Down two points early in the first quarter, Georgia collected seven consecutive points for the 9-4 lead, featuring Cole, who halted two straight Auburn possessions with a steal and a defensive rebound and dished out a pair of layups to junior forward Caliya Robinson and Clark for the five-point advantage. A few late Auburn points tied the game at nine at the end of the opening frame.
In the second quarter, Georgia extended its edge with the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week Gabby Connally connecting with Engram at the basket twice for a pair of layups and the 18-15 Georgia lead, but the Tigers fought back for the 25-22 margin entering intermission.
To open the second half, Auburn established its largest lead of the game with eight points, until six straight Haley Clark points cut the Tiger advantage to two. With a Cole 3-pointer at the 4:58 mark, the Lady Bulldogs exploded on a 13-2 run and re-claimed the lead for the remainder of the game.
Within the go-ahead Georgia run, both Engram and Cole drew fouls and drained free throws to knot the game at 33 and 35. With a little over a minute remaining in the third quarter, the Lady Bulldogs took the 38-35 lead from a Que Morrison 3-pointer. Cole provided a layup and a pair of free throws to cap the run and close the third quarter with Georgia up 42-35. The Lady Bulldogs outscored the Tigers 20 to 10 in the third frame.
In the fourth quarter, Georgia used nine unanswered points to distance itself by 16, the largest lead of the game by either team. Engram’s 11 fourth-quarter points sealed the 60-44 final.
The Lady Bulldogs have trailed only four times at the half this season, with the win over Auburn marking the second time they have come back for the victory.
Next up, Georgia welcomes No. 11 Missouri to Stegeman Coliseum on Thursday night. The game will be available for streaming on SEC Network + at 7 p.m.