Georgia women’s basketball searching for first Sweet 16 bid since 2013

Georgia women's basketball in its 70-54 win over Dayton in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The Georgia women’s basketball program is one win away from its first Sweet 16 bid in nine years.

The Lady Bulldogs last punched their tickets to the Sweet 16 in 2013, when they knocked off Iowa State in the round of 32 to advance. They then edged a 61-59 upset of No. 1 seed Stanford before an overtime loss to California in the Elite Eight.

A No. 6 seed this season, Georgia will try to beat the same team it did in 2013 when it faces No. 3 seed Iowa State at 8 p.m. Sunday at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa (TV: ESPN2).

The Bulldogs, who have returned to the tournament five times since their 2013 run, are yet to earn another second round win. As a No. 8 seed in both 2014 and 2016, Georgia did not advance past the first round.

In 2018, UGA entered the tournament a No. 4 seed and topped Mercer in the first round before losing to Duke 66-40 two days later. It returned to the tournament last season as a No. 3 seed, its highest bidding since 2007, and beat Drexel before falling to Oregon in the second round.

If 2022 is the year the Lady Bulldogs return, it will likely require a strong defensive performance to slow Iowa State. The Cyclones (27-6), who will face the Bulldogs (21-9) on their home court, boast a three-headed monster at the guard position between Ashley Joens, Lexi Donarski, and Emily Ryan. Joens leads her team in points (20.9) and rebounds (9.6) per game.

“I think they’re just a team that plays really hard and they play together,” sophomore guard Sarah Ashlee Barker said. “They’ve got three really good players that can just score all over and if anyone gets hot, they get hot. You also saw that last night, they were not hitting shots in the first half, but they didn’t back down.”

Jenna Staiti leads Georgia in points (15.1), rebounds (7.8), and blocks (2.2) per game. The first-team All-SEC selection is just 18 points away from 1,500 in her career.

UGA beat Dayton 70-54 Friday night in the opening round of the tournament. Staiti continued to the lead the Bulldogs with a 19-point, 8-rebound performance, but it was Jillian Hollingshead’s explosion off the bench that stole the show.

The freshman guard contributed a career-high 15 points in as many minutes in her first action since being sidelined with a knee injury a month ago.

“It just brings a lot of excitement to the team,” graduate guard Que Morrison said. “When she got out there, it was great to have her out there and just to see her perform like that, it just makes it more amazing.”

Morrison put forward a strong performance of her own to the tune of 16 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists.

Iowa State legged out a 78-71 win over UT Arlington Friday night. The Big 12 runners-up trailed by six at halftime, but a 36-point performance by Joens spurred the victory.

2022 marks Georgia’s 35th NCAA tournament appearance, second all-time only to Tennessee, with 40.

Georgia, 3-0 against Iowa State all-time, is a 5.5-point underdog.

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