SAN ANTONIO — Midway through the second quarter, a white No. 10 jersey walked past Georgia coach Joni Taylor and tapped the scorer’s table. Caitlin Hose readied to enter the game.
The junior guard hadn’t played in five-and-a-half weeks; since Feb. 11 in the Lady Bulldogs’ blowout win over Auburn. Hose fell out of the rotation. She played in three of 18 conference games and played a combined 15 minutes. Hose’s shooting touch has always been her strongest weapon, however, and Georgia needed a spark and a guard to log minutes — even if only a few.
Georgia didn’t have reserve guard Sarah Ashlee Barker (undisclosed) at its disposal, and senior Gabby Connally had limited minutes after suffering an ankle injury March 14. So Hose became an option,
“I knew Caitlin was going to play today,” Taylor said. “The timing of when she made those shots was huge because we were struggling to score. She got us going with that spark.”
Georgia exhausted nearly every piece it had in the 67-53 NCAA Tournament-opening win over Drexel at Bill Greehey Arena. The Lady Bulldogs had to shuffle their starting lineup for the first time this season after having the same group in the 26 previous contests. A deep bench, however, is what Georgia has had at its disposal since the season began in November.
Georgia had 38 bench points (which included 19 points from Jenna Staiti, a usual starter), which accounted for 57% of the team’s scoring. Taylor went with a 10-deep rotation and gave a heavier load to sophomore guard Chloe Chapman and junior forward Malury Bates, who earned the start.
The shuffling had minimal impact inside the team’s locker room. Connally reiterated the importance of preparation before the tournament and said those on the outside “don’t see what happens in the dark.” It paid off against the Dragons, and will continue to be a key cog as the tournament run continues Wednesday against Oregon (3 p.m., ESPN2).
“It speaks to our team, their readiness and ability to lock in,” Taylor said. “It’s our secret sauce. It has been all year long. We have so many options, and we need every single person.”