Lady Bulldogs fall to No. 1 South Carolina

Shortly after her team’s 18-game home win streak ended Thursday with a 58-35 loss to South Carolina, Georgia junior Merritt Hempe gathered her teammates at mid-court for a postgame pep talk.

“[Hempe] said to keep our heads up and get ready to win out for the rest of the season,” said freshman Mackenzie Engram, who was one of two Lady Bulldogs with a team-high eight points. “But it doesn’t take away the feeling of getting beat as bad as we got beat.”

No. 22 Georgia (17-6, 5-5 Southeastern Conference) surrended its first home loss since Jan. 12, 2014 in a game that was never in doubt. The top-ranked Gamecocks (22-0, 10-0 SEC) led for all but 59 seconds and walked into their locker room at halftime up 30-14.

It was the Lady Bulldogs’ largest margin of defeat this season, eclipsing a 19-point loss to Seton Hall on Dec. 28.

Going into the matchup, Georgia reiterated how important rebounding would be against South Carolina. And with leading rebounder Krista Donald on the bench serving a one-game suspension (violation of team rules) and Shacobia Barbee out with an injury, the Lady Bulldogs’ task appeared more daunting.

Scoring was also a struggle for Georgia. The Lady Bulldogs made just 20.7 percent of their shots from the field and were 2 of 19 from beyond the arc.

“Not executing on offense,” said junior guard Tiaria Griffin, who missed 12 of her 15 shots. “I think that played a big role in us not hitting shots. But also forcing a lot of shots that we took tonight.”

On top of that, the Gamecocks used their height to minimize Georgia’s offense. South Carolina tied a season high with 10 blocks and outrebounded the Lady Bulldogs 50-38.

“I think that’s probably the most physical game that we’ve played,” Engram said. “It was definitely a challenge.”

Georgia travels to Fayetteville, Arkansas on Monday to play their first non-ranked opponent in more than two weeks.

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