Lady Dogs vs Kentucky in SEC tournament

Top 25 matchup

The 16th ranked Georgia women’s basketball team begins play in the SEC tournament, taking on No. 17 Kentucky in game that tips around 1 o’clock this afternoon in Greenville South Carolina.

From Tray Littlefield, UGA Sports Communications…

Game Day Storylines

• Georgia and Kentucky meet for the second time in eight days when the two squads tip off in the quarterfinal round of the 2021 SEC Tournament.

• The Wildcats won the last matchup 62-58 in Athens. SEC Player of the Year Rhyne Howard scored a game-high 27 points and hit 10-of-16 from the field in the win.

• Georgia is the No. 4 seed and Kentucky is the No. 5 seed in this year’s tournament. The Lady Bulldogs finished the regular season with an 18-5 overall record and 10-5 mark in SEC play. Georgia earned the double-bye following Kentucky’s loss to Ole Miss this past Sunday.

• The Lady Bulldogs are looking to snap a three-game losing skid to the Wildcats.

• A win on Friday would put Georgia into Saturday’s semifinals against either No. 1 seed Texas A&M or No. 8 seed LSU. The semifinal contest will tip off at 4 p.m.

• Georgia head coach Joni Taylor was named the 2021 SEC Coach of the Year and is a semifinalist for the Werner Ladder Naismith National Coach of the Year award.

• After being picked ninth in the SEC preseason coaches poll, Georgia finished fourth in the standings.

• A key reason for Georgia’s turnaround this season can be credited to four senior starters. Georgia’s top four scorers are all college graduates and are pursuing master’s degrees at UGA.

• Senior guard Que Morrison was tabbed the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, while senior center Jenna Staiti placed on the All-SEC second team. Morrison is Georgia’s first Defensive Player of the Year winner since Sherill Baker in 2006.

• Morrison is the defensive stopper on the top defensive team in the SEC. The Lady Bulldogs are the only conference team to rank in the top-5 of the league in scoring defense (60.1 ppg), field-goal percentage defense (.371), 3-point field-goal percentage defense (.276), blocked shots (6.3 per game) and steals (9.0 per game).

• Staiti enters postseason play as the SEC’s blocked shots leader with 72 swats (3.1 per game). She needs just 11 points to reach 1,000 for her career. The Cumming, Ga., native could become one of just eight Lady Bulldogs in program history to record 1,000 career points, 500 rebounds and 150 blocks.

• Steady Staiti has scored in double figures in 27 of the last 32 games dating back to last season. She has also totaled 11 double-doubles during that time.

• Lady Bulldog rookie guard Sarah Ashlee Barker was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team. She has totaled four double-figure scoring games and has played a pivotal role in most of Georgia’s wins.

• Georgia enters the 2021 SEC Tournament with its highest seeding since earning a three seed in 2018. The Lady Bulldogs advanced to the semifinals that season.

• The Lady Bulldogs have one of the deepest rosters in the nation, routinely playing 11-12 players per game.

• Senior Maya Caldwell enters the tournament following the best game of her career. Caldwell scored a career-best 27 points off an 11-of-15 shooting effort against Florida. It marked just the second time she has scored over 20 points in her career.

Series Information vs. No. 5 Seed Kentucky

Overall: Georgia leads, 37-21

In Athens: Georgia leads, 17-8

In Lexington: Georgia leads, 14-11

Neutral Sites: Georgia leads, 6-2

Current Streak: Kentucky has won three-straight meetings

Last Meeting in SEC Tournament: 2013 — Kentucky won 60-38 in the semifinals

SEC Tournament History

• Since the tournament began in 1980, the Lady Bulldogs own a 49-37 overall record. Georgia has won the tournament title four times, with those coming in 1983, 1984, 1986 and 2001. Georgia’s last appearance in the SEC tournament finals came in 2004.

Georgia Season Notebook

Joni Taylor Named SEC Coach of the Year

Georgia head coach Joni Taylor -- who led one of the largest single-season turnarounds in school history -- was named the 2021 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year.  She has guided her team to an 18-5 record, which includes wins against top-25 teams Tennessee (twice) and Arkansas.

Taylor Also a Semifinalist for National Coach of the Year

A day after winning the SEC Coach of the Year honor, Taylor was selected as one of 10 semifinalists for the 2021 Werner Ladder Naismith National Coach of the Year. She is seeking to become Georgia’s first National Coach of the Year Award winner since Andy Landers won the honor in 2000. The legendary Landers earned the award four times (1986, 1987, 1996 and 2000).

Georgia Inks Pair of McDonald’s All-Americans

Jillian Hollingshead (Powder Springs, Ga.) and Reigan Richardson (Huntersville, N.C.) — two signees in the Georgia Lady Bulldog basketball team’s 2021 class — have been named McDonald’s All-Americans, the organization announced last week.

It marks the first time in program history Georgia has signed two McDonald’s All-Americans in one class. Hollingshead and Richardson are the 11th and 12th McDonald’s All-Americans to sign with the Lady Bulldogs, and are the first to commit right out high school since Ronika Ransford in 2010. Current Lady Bulldog Mikayla Coombs was a McDonald’s All-American in 2017.

Georgia is one of only three Southeastern Conference schools — joining South Carolina and Arkansas — to have a signee on this year’s list.

Exceeding Expectations

Georgia was picked ninth in this year’s SEC preseason coaches poll and ultimately finished fourth in the standings. Exceeding expectations is nothing new for Joni Taylor’s teams. In five of her six seasons as head coach, her squads have finished ahead of their preseason rankings.

Georgia’s SEC Standings Under Joni Taylor

Season Preseason SEC Finish

2015-16           9th           6th

2016-17           12th         8th

2017-18           8th           2nd (tied)

2018-19           4th           7th

2019-20           10th         9th

2020-21           9th           4th

Morrison Healthy and Leading Lady Bulldogs

After suffering a string of injuries in her career, 2021 SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year Que Morrison is finally healthy and making a huge impact for the Lady Bulldogs.

The Riverdale, Ga., native  placed on the SEC All-Freshman Team after drawing 32 starts on Georgia’s NCAA tournament team.

Then, in her sophomore campaign (2018-19), Morrison missed the first eight games due to a torn meniscus in her left knee. In 2019-20, she had an injury to her foot before the year began. She then suffered a torn labrum in her right shoulder to end her junior campaign midway through SEC play.

This year, not only is Morrison considered the top defensive player in the conference, she is also leading offensively, having scored in double figures in eight-straight games for the first time in her career.

More on Morrison

Morrison is one of the top all-around players in the SEC. The four-year starter ranks in the top-15 among SEC players in assists, steals and assist-to-turnover ratio. In addition to scoring in double figures in eight-straight games, she has scored over 20 points twice this year -- both for the first time in her career.

2 for Threeeee

Senior guard Gabby  Connally goes by the nickname ‘2’ to honor her jersey number. The San Antonio native might want to think about changing it to ‘3’ following a pair of impressive shooting performances against Missouri and Tennessee in late February.

After hitting a career-high six 3-pointers to tie her season-best of 29 points at Missouri, Connally made five 3-pointers in the win against Tennessee. She is the first Georgia player since Mary Beth Lycett (Smart) in 2003 to post back-to-back games with five or more 3-pointers against SEC teams.

In the Paint and On The Move

Georgia has been an improved team on the offensive end compared to last season, upping its points per game by nearly 10 points and scoring 80 or more points seven times this year (after only doing so twice last season).

Two reasons for that success include scoring in transition and scoring in the paint. The Lady Bulldogs have outscored their opponents in transition in all but two games and have owned an advantage in the paint in 13 of 23 contests.

Lady Bulldogs Hit 60 percent

Georgia has made over 60 percent from the field twice this season, doing so in games against Mercer and Appalachian State. Prior to this season, Georgia had not shot 60 percent or better in a game since 2009.

Winning on the Road

The Lady Bulldogs are 8-2 on the road this season, including wins in its first three games of the year, marking the first time in school history Georgia has accomplished that feat. Georgia’s win at Tennessee was its first in Knoxville since 1996.

Coombs Georgia’s Newest Defensive Back

Redshirt junior guard Mikayla Coombs grew up wanting to play football, and she has certainly carried that passion over to the basketball floor.  Coombs is one of Georgia’s top defensive players as she currently ranks 12th in the SEC in total steals with 38. In two games against Tennessee (1/14) and Ole Miss , Coombs has hit 9-of-14 from the field (64 percent), scored 19 points, totaled seven rebounds, 12 assists and four steals. She ended the regular season tying a career high with 11 points at Florida.

Block Party for the Bulldogs

The Lady Bulldogs are second in the SEC and fourth nationally with 145 total blocks. Georgia averages 6.3 swats per game.

Georgia is League’s Most Unselfish

The Lady Bulldogs average 15.3 assists per game, which is second best in the SEC. Georgia has totaled a conference-high 353 dimes during the 2020-21 campaign.

Reaching 100

Georgia scored 107 points against Appalachian State on Dec. 22. That total marked the most points by a Georgia team since the 2000-01 campaign and was the first time the Lady Bulldogs have reached the 100-point mark since 2007. The Lady Bulldogs’ 95 point effort to end the regular season at Florida was the best offensive output against a SEC team since 2013.

Barker Named SEC Freshman of the Week ... Again

Sarah Ashlee Barker was named SEC Freshman of the Week twice this season. She earned her most recent honor after scoring 11 points, including nine off a trio of 3-pointers in the second quarter, against Ole Miss.

Barker has made several key plays for the Lady Bulldogs this season.

With 2:19 left in the overtime period against Georgia Tech, Barker broke open a tie game with a made jump shot to put her team up 65-63. The Lady Bulldogs did not give up the lead the rest of the way en route to a 75-69 win. Barker then hit a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma, giving Georgia its largest lead of the game at 14.

Georgia Reaches 1,000-Win Milestone

With its win against East Carolina on Dec. 3, Georgia became one of just two SEC programs (Tennessee) and one of 16 nationwide to reach the 1,000-win mark. The team commemorated the milestone with a special social media video narrated by Andy Landers and Joni Taylor.

Staiti’s Streak

Jenna Staiti had one of the best late season stretches of any player in the SEC last season, averaging 19.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game over the last nine contests. That trend has continued into the 2020-21 campaign. She has now scored in double figures in 27 of her last 32 games and has 11 double-doubles during that time.

Connally Reaches Career Top-10

Georgia senior Gabby Connally has moved into seventh place on UGA’s career 3-pt field goals made chart. Connally has totaled 181 during her time at Georgia.

Staiti Among Georgia’s All-time Best Shot blockers

With 190 blocks , Jenna Staiti is seventh on Georgia’s all-time blocked shots chart.  Tawana McDonald owns the UGA career record with 297 in her career.

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