UGA saw its five-game win streak come to an end Thursday after losing 61-51 to No. 2 South Carolina on the road. Senior Tiaria Griffin led all scorers with 24 points and eight rebounds.
After trailing 43-27 at the end of the third, the Bulldogs (19-7, 7-6 SEC) outscored the Gamecocks (24-2, 13-0 SEC) 18-7 to cut South Carolina’s lead to five with just under two minutes left in the fourth. A basket by Tiffany Mitchell stopped the run, sealing the victory for the Gamecocks, but Georgia’s ability to keep up with the No. 2 team in the country was enough to keep the team’s spirits high.
“This should show you that we can play with anybody when we execute and we do what we’re supposed to do on both ends of the basketball court,” UGA coach Joni Taylor said after the game. “We’ve got three games left, and we fully expect them to finish that out in the right way.”
Here are five observations from the game:
1. Free throws keep Gamecocks alive
Despite shooting just 18.2 percent in the first quarter, the Gamecocks took a 10-9 lead in the first quarter due to free throws. South Carolina made just two field goals in the quarter, but UGA sent the Gamecocks to the line nine times.
2. Second quarter struggles
The Bulldogs dug themselves a huge offensive hole early in the game. After trailing by just one point at the end of the first, the Bulldogs folded in the second quarter, shooting 14.3 percent from the field and making only two field goals versus South Carolina’s seven.
Though Georgia was able to make a late run in the game, the second quarter deficit proved to be too hard to rebound from. Taylor, however, saw the team’s late effort as the highlight.
“We only scored four points in the second quarter and gave up 17, which is not like us, but (we) came back out and continued to fight,” Taylor said. “Not to talk about years past, but the team last year, who knows what they would’ve done in that situation.”
3. No help for Griffin
Griffin had a phenomenal shooting night Thursday, but had very little help from the rest of the team. The senior scored 10 points in the first half and finished with 22. Griffin shot 9-for-15 from the field, while the rest of the team shot 12-for-44.
“Tiaria was really good for us, especially early in the first half when we were struggling to score,” Taylor said. “She put us on her back, and then in the third or fourth quarter, we were able to move the ball some more and get some better looks at the basket.”
4. Too many turnovers
Turnovers proved to be a huge flaw in Georgia’s game on Thursday. The Bulldogs ended the game with 22 turnovers, which in turn led to 22 points for the Gamecocks. South Carolina had 17 turnovers of its own, but Georgia was unable to capitalize on the same mistakes.
“In games like this, we can’t turn the basketball over, and that’s the message that I gave to our team,” Taylor said. “Be proud of your effort, be proud of staying in the game, but also understand, with three minutes left in the game, we’re down five, and those turnovers and not capitalizing on some execution plays offensively, you’ve got to be locked in every single possession in games like this against really good teams.”
5. Defense lags
Georgia entered Thursday’s game with the top defense in the SEC, leading in scoring defense (52.0 points) and field-goal percentage defense (34.1). UGA held South Carolina to 38.9 percent shooting, but the Bulldogs still could not keep up and only shot 34.5 percent themselves.
Georgia will return home on Sunday to face Florida at 1 p.m. ET in Stegeman Coliseum.