Lady Bulldogs off to scorching start after road win at Tennessee

Georgia guard Que Morrison (23) tries to get ahead of the Tennessee defense during a basketball game between the Tennessee Lady Vols and the Georgia Bulldogs at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., on Thursday, January 14, 2021.
Georgia guard Que Morrison (23) tries to get ahead of the Tennessee defense during a basketball game between the Tennessee Lady Vols and the Georgia Bulldogs at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., on Thursday, January 14, 2021.

Credit: Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel

Credit: Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel

ATHENS – The Lady Bulldogs are back.

If there was any doubt about that before, Georgia’s women’s basketball team removed it with Thursday night’s stunning 67-66 win over No. 23 Tennessee in Knoxville.

It wasn’t just that Georgia won; it was how it won.

Trailing by 15 points at halftime, Georgia unleashed a furious third-quarter performance, outscoring the Lady Vols 29-9 and building enough of a cushion to withstand Tennessee’s inevitable late surge. Steals by Que Morrision and Maya Caldwell in the final three seconds secured the victory.

It would be one thing if that performance was an anomaly, but it was not. The only exception to Georgia’s stellar play this season was its only loss so far. They lost at home to a very good Mississippi State team 69-62 on Dec. 31.

Otherwise, the Lady Bulldogs (11-1, 3-1 SEC) have been an indefatigable team of blue-collar all-stars doing whatever it takes to win on a given night. That formula has them off to their best start since 2017-18, when they went 26-7, finished tied for second in the SEC and hosted first- and second-round NCAA tournament games.

“We are not a team who one person can win it for us,” Georgia coach Joni Taylor said Friday. “That’s not how we’re built, that’s not who we’ve ever been, and that’s not who we’re going to be. It takes everybody showing up and doing their job.”

Thursday’s performance was a great example of that. Georgia features 11 players who play 8.8 minutes or more and has 13 players who play regularly.

Ten played against Tennessee, and it was Morrison and Maori Davenport who were the difference-makers. Morrison, a senior guard, knocked down three 3-pointers in the second half to finish with 17 points, eight rebounds and four steals.

Meanwhile, with leading scorer and rebounder Jenni Staiti struggling, Davenport came off the bench and picked up the slack. Staiti (14.1 ppg) scored a season-low two points while playing only 13 minutes, 41 seconds. But Davenport scored eight points on 4-of-6 shooting, and Georgia was plus-12 in her 22 minutes on the floor.

“When we play as many people as we do, sometimes it takes us a while to figure out who’s got the hot hand every single night,” Taylor said. “Like I tell the team all the time: Sometimes it’s not about you individually. It’s about the five on the floor who are playing the best.”

Georgia will take that one-for-all mentality into Sunday’s game against Ole Miss. The Rebels (7-3, 1-3) are not a team to be trifled with. While they have lost three of four to open conference play, they average 77.6 points per game. They’re led by one of the SEC’s top scorers in Shakira Austin with 18.4 points a game and their No. 2 scorer is Donetta Johnson (13.8 ppg), a former Georgia player who played in 27 games with eight starts for the Bulldogs before transferring and sitting out last season.

The Lady Bulldogs know it’s important to put the Tennessee game behind them if they’re going to stay on this roll.

“We were hyped, and there was a lot of celebration in the locker room,” Morrison said of the win over Tennessee. “But we know we have a tough team coming up in Ole Miss, and they’re no team to underestimate.”

Said Taylor: “We won’t know how important that win was until we see how we handle it. That remains to be seen. It does us no good to (beat Tennessee) if we don’t respond the right way, continue to take care of business and prepare. We’re moved on.”

In Other News