Thursday evening brings another SEC showdown, with the No. 17 Georgia Lady Bulldogs (17-4, 9-4 SEC) taking on the No. 19 Kentucky Wildcats (15-6, 8-5 SEC) at 7 p.m. ET in Athens Ga.
With a win, the Lady Bulldogs will further cement this season as the best of the Joni Taylor era. For the first time since 1984-85, Georgia swept the season series with the now-No. 20 Tennessee Lady Vols. The Lady Dawgs also claimed a quality win over the then-No. 19 Arkansas Razorbacks.
The common dominator in these signature victories was strong scoring performances from their guards, especially senior point guard Gabby Connally. On Jan. 14, Georgia gutted out a 67-66 win on Rocky Top behind a pair of 17-point performances from Connally and fellow senior guard Que Morrison. In the Feb. 21 rematch with the Lady Vols, Connally again was excellent in another tight win, 57-55, for the Lady Bulldogs. She swished five 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 24 points.
In Georgia’s 75-73 Jan. 25 upset of Arkansas, the senior point guard sunk the game-winning bucket with less than a second to go, giving her a team-high 20 points.
Strong scoring performances from Connally are important because, in losses, the Lady Dawgs have labored to put points on the board. While Georgia held the then-No. 3 South Carolina Gamecocks to 62 points in their Jan. 21 matchup, they only scored 50 points. In their Jan. 31 loss to the then-No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies, Georgia managed a mere 48 points.
Expect the defense to again be on point for the senior-laden Lady Dawgs. To triumph, shots will need to fall for Connally and Morrison, which can then open up more space for senior center to Jenna Staiti to go to work inside.
Can the Wildcats cause the Lady Bulldog offense to stall?
The inconsistent ‘Cats have relinquished 65.3 points per game, suggesting that they are more likely to win with an offensive explosion. Luckily, Rhyne Howard is capable of such an effort.
After struggling to an inefficient 12 points in Kentucky’s 76-55 loss to the now-No. 5 South Carolina Gamecocks last Sunday, Howard might be due for another big night. The game prior, she was at her best, leading the Wildcats to an 88-80 win over the Florida Gators in Gainesville. Not only did she pour in points all over the floor to score a game-high 31, but she also was disruptive defensively, with a pair of steals and a block.
No. 19 Kentucky Wildcats (15-6, 8-5 SEC) vs. No. 17 Georgia Lady Bulldogs (17-4, 9-4 SEC)
When: Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Stegman Coliseum in Athens, GA
What to watch for: SEC players becoming SEC coaches! For the first time, Georgia’s Joni Taylor, who played for Alabama from 1997 to 2001, faces off with Kentucky’s Kyra Elzy, who suited up for Tennessee from 1996 to 2001. The pair represent two of five SEC head coaches who once played in the conference, with Nikki Fargas (Tennessee to LSU), Kellie Harper (Tennessee to Tennessee) and Nicki McCray (Tennessee to Mississippi State) being the other three. Taylor and Elzy are also two of the conference’s seven Black women head coaches. The SEC is at the forefront of altering the ideological infrastructure that has historically determined basketball authority by empowering women, especially women of color, to lead programs and, in the process, expand the game for future generations.