Georgia will face LSU in SEC women's tourney

Georgia will face the hottest team in the SEC in its first game of the conference women’s basketball tournament at Gwinnett Arena.

LSU held on to overcame a tenacious Auburn 65-62 for its seventh consecutive victory on Thursday. The Tigers’ streak started with a 62-54 win over Georgia on Feb. 10. Including the Bulldogs, LSU has defeated three ranked teams during its run.

The Bulldogs (24-5), the tournament’s third seed, will take on the Tigers (20-10), the sixth seed, at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

Auburn cut LSU’s lead to 64-62 with 9.2 seconds left. After an LSU free throw pushed its lead to three, Auburn’s potential game-tying 3-pointer glanced off the rim as the buzzer sounded.

LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said Georgia will be a tough opponent for a variety of reasons. It's always tough to beat a team twice and she said she doesn't know if the team that dominated Auburn by 15 points in the first half or the team that almost gave up the game in the second half will show up in Duluth.

"Big question mark is who is going to show up tomorrow," she said. "The team that reeled off the victories or the team that’s just happy to be here?"

In Thursday’s earlier games, Florida may have played its way onto the bubble of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament with its 64-59 victory over Arkansas.

The teams combined to commit 43 turnovers, but the Gators (18-13) overcome their errors by outrebounding the Razorbacks by 13 and by making 15 more free throws on 16 more attempts.

The loss may have sealed the Razorbacks’ (18-12) fate in the NIT. But that didn’t stop Arkansas coach Tom Collen from using his postgame platform to stump for his squad and predict that the Gators will receive an invitation.

“Arkansas is good enough to get into the NCAA and probably good enough to get in and advance,” Collen said.

On Monday, ESPN listed the Razorbacks among the last eight teams under consideration for the tournament who won’t make it in, no doubt hurt by losing three of their last four regular-season games.

Florida, the eighth seed in the SEC tournament, wasn’t included anywhere. ESPN women's basketball tournament selection analyst Charlie Creme said that Thursday’s win may cause the selection committee to consider the Gators, but he still predicts that they won’t get in.

Florida will get a chance to strengthen its credentials when it takes on Tennessee at noon in Friday’s third round. The Lady Vols (23-6), one of seven teams from the conference that Creme predicted will be invited to the NCAAs, are the top seed in the SEC tournament.

The Gators advanced by overcoming an 11-point deficit with 15:35 in the second half. The teams traded short leads throughout the final eight minutes of the game, with Florida opening a three-point margin on two free throws by Jaterra Bonds with 30 seconds left. Dominique Wilson, who is from Powder Springs, missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the score. Sydney Moss sealed the victory with two free throws.

“That last 12-14 minutes showed a lot of toughness,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said. “We showed a tremendous amount of fight that is essential this time of year, especially in this league.”

South Carolina, one of the seven Creme predicted to be in the NCAA tournament, dispatched Alabama 77-35 in their matchup on Thursday. Elem Ibiam led South Carolina with 19 points.

The fifth-seeded Gamecocks (24-6) will take on fourth-seeded Texas A&M at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

Vanderbilt, another team projected to make the NCAA tournament, held Missouri without a point for almost eight minutes in the second half to pull away for a 53-40 victory. The Commodores will play Kentucky, the second seed, at 6 p.m. Friday.

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