Women’s basketball falls to Georgia in SEC Tournament quarterfinals

With the loss, Missouri will now sit and wait to find out its NCAA Tournament seeding.
Amber Smith dribbles around a Mississippi State defender to get the ball to the paint.

With 7:29 left in the second quarter, redshirt senior Jordan Frericks knocked away a shot, drove down the court and put up a fast-break layup as junior Caliya Robinson came from behind.


Seconds later, Frericks would get the ball again and put up a jumper in the lane over Robinson.


Finally, junior Sophie Cunningham received a pass and put a layup over Robinson in the lane in the middle of the third quarter.


Every time the Tigers would go inside, Robinson was there, as Georgia’s dominant defense stifled Missouri to defeat the Tigers 55-41 in Nashville, Tennessee, in the Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Friday night.

Georgia suffocated Missouri with its defense led by Robinson. The Bulldogs had 11 blocks, and Robinson swatted away six shots on her own.

Georgia’s head coach Joni Taylor praised Robinson’s defense. Robinson not only blocked shots but contested the Tigers’ inside looks from, leading Missouri to shoot 16-for-59 from the field.

“Caliya is always committed to playing great defense for us whether she's blocking shots or not,” Taylor said. “She just has the ability to alter shots from the defensive end is something that other teams are always worried about.”

Missouri’s offense struggled throughout the game when the Bulldogs put on high ball pressure and took away passing lanes. Missouri managed only one assist in the first quarter when redshirt senior Kayla Michael dumped the ball down to Frericks for a layup with 3:06 left in the first.

Georgia sped up Missouri’s offense, forcing the Tigers to take tough shots or setting them up to rush shots.

“They just really got into our ball handlers and all of us, really, just kind of pressured,” Frericks said. “They were aggressive defensively and kind of set us up at times, and other times we did it to ourselves.”

The lack of ball movement made it tough for Missouri to hit from outside. Missouri started out 4-for-21 from the field and the Tigers missed their first five attempts from behind the arc before Cunningham found redshirt junior Lauren Aldridge for a triple in the corner with 6:11 left in the second.

Missouri started to move the ball more in the second quarter. The Tigers had five assists and hit three of their last four attempts from behind the arc going into the half.

Cunningham gave Missouri a 20-18 lead with the bomb from the left wing with 1:19 to go in the half, then fed Amber Smith in the corner for another triple to give the Tigers a 23-20 lead at the break.

After the two triples, it looked like the Tigers had some offense going. Then halftime hit and seemed to stop Missouri’s momentum.

Cunningham said Missouri mainly missed open looks but that halftime really halted the run at the end of the second quarter.

“We had open shots,” Cunningham said. “We just didn’t stick them. I didn’t stick really any of mine, but I think that got us going and then halftime. I swear, if we didn’t have halftime then we would have had something good.”

Coming out of the break, it was all Bulldogs. Robinson and Georgia continued to stop the Tiger offense as Georgia outscored Missouri 20-9 in the third behind freshman Que Morrison, who had eight of her team-high 16 points in the third quarter. All of Morrison’s points came in the second half.

During a scuffle late in the third, Cunningham picked up an unsportsmanlike foul that led to Georgia jumping out to a 6-point lead with 2:57 left in the third.

Cunningham struggled from the field for the second straight night, finishing with 7 points and shooting 3-for-17 after starting Thursday night scoreless in the first half.

Georgia’s constant pressure wasn’t just on-ball. The Bulldogs doubled Cunningham in the post, making it hard for her or any other Tigers to get open and catch on the wing.

“They’re a very good defensive team,” Cunningham said. “They’re one of the best in the nation. They speed you up, they make it hard to catch, they make it hard to do anything.”

Senior Mackenzie Engram led the Bulldogs with 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Engram was able to finish inside and bring Missouri’s frontcourt players away from the basket by hitting multiple mid-range jumpers.

Cunningham said Missouri now has the NCAA Tournament to focus on.

“We’re not over,” Cunningham said. “We still have a lot to prove, clearly. We’re ready for the Big Dance.”

The Tigers won’t find out if they get to host NCAA Tournament games at Mizzou Arena until selection time. The selection show is March 12 at 6 p.m.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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