UGA survived its first game without senior Shacobia Barbee this season, defeating Arkansas 72-57 at home in Stegeman Coliseum. Senior Merritt Hempe led the Bulldogs with 18 points, followed by Tiaria Griffin with 15 and Caliya Robinson with 14.
After a cold offensive performance in the first half, Georgia (21-7, 9-6 SEC) bounced back in the third, going on a 9-0 run to gain a 36-34 lead with three minutes left in the quarter. The Bulldogs outscored the Razorbacks (11-17, 6-9 SEC) 21-16 in the quarter, shooting 53.8 percent from the field. Georgia’s momentum carried into the fourth, and the Bulldogs held Arkansas to 32.3 percent from the field in the game.
“We knew it would be all hands on deck,” head coach Joni Taylor said. “To have four players in double figures, we really settled in in the third and fourth quarter and got comfortable in our rhythm.”
Here are five observations from the game:
1. Second-half comeback
Georgia shined in the second half Thursday, which has been a theme for the Bulldogs this season. After scoring only eight points in the first quarter and heading to halftime shooting a low 31 percent, Georgia rebounded in the second half by making 16 of its 26 shot attempts in the final two quarters.
Robinson was a huge factor in Georgia’s second-half comeback. The freshman’s 14 points came on 6-of-10 shooting, and she also matched her career-high in blocks with five.
“Without Shacobia, we knew we had to step up, we knew we had to play 10 times harder and we have to execute,” Robinson said.
2. No Barbee, no problem
Barbee left Georgia’s game on Sunday against Florida with an ankle injury that was later revealed to be a left distal fibula. The senior underwent surgery Tuesday, ending her career as Lady Bulldog.
In her absence, the team stepped up in a major way, with four Bulldogs scored in double figures. Fellow seniors Hempe and Griffin helped fill Barbee’s void, scoring a combined 33 points on 11-for-24 shooting.
“I think she did a great job starting it,” Robinson said of Hempe sparking the team. “I knew everyone else needed to step up and come around, so we all stepped up and added to her contribution.”
3. Roberts shines
Pachis Roberts was given the start Thursday in place of injured Barbee, making it her seventh of the season. The redshirt junior held her own, scoring 12 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
4. Points at the line
Arkansas was able to hold onto its lead for most of the first half because of free throws. In the first quarter, the Razorbacks made only one field goal more than Georgia, but they made three free throws to the Bulldogs’ zero.
Georgia got to the line much more often in the second half, making 28 trips and coming away with 20 easy points. Six of those free throws came from Griffin, who struggled to score in the first half.
“She is someone who is just really critical to what we do on both ends of the floor,” Taylor said of Griffin. “We’re asking her to play 38, 39 minutes, so for her to find another way to score, she did a really good job.”
5. SEC Record
With Thursday’s win, the Bulldogs have now ensured a winning SEC record heading into the SEC conference tournament in Jacksonville on March 2.
Georgia will end the regular season on Sunday against Tennessee in Knoxville at 1 p.m. ET.