Georgia women start slow, Staiti finishes strong to advance
SAN ANTONIO – Georgia’s first change to a starting lineup this season was apparent early – even against a No. 14 seed.
The second half was a different story.
Jenna Staiti scored all 19 of her points after halftime, making seven straight shots, Que Morrison had 11 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high eight assists, and No. 3 seed Georgia overcame a slow start to beat Drexel 67-53 on Monday in the women’s NCAA Tournament.
Georgia advances in the Alamo Region to face sixth-seeded Oregon, which held to South Dakota to nine first-half points.
Staiti and Gabby Connally were not in the starting lineup for the first time in 26 games. Staiti was late getting to San Antonio due to undisclosed medical reason and Connally rolled her ankle in a practice after the SEC championship game.
Georgia struggled early without them, missing its first five shots and turning it over seven times through the first 6 minutes, 10 seconds. The Bulldogs only had two made field goals until Morrison beat the first-quarter buzzer with a long jumper to pull within 15-10.
It was tied at 25-all at halftime – with Drexel holding the lead for 14:19.
“I thought we did a really good job of settling in, disrupting them on the defensive end and some of their turnovers gave us a chance to get our offense going,” Georgia coach Joni Taylor said.
After each team only made one field goal through the first four minutes of the third quarter, Staiti took over.
Staiti sank her seventh 3-pointer of the season with 44 seconds left in the third, giving her nine points in the quarter to build a 40-35 lead. Staiti made all four of her shots in the quarter, her teammates were just 3 of 13, and she kept it going in the fourth by making three straight baskets, including another 3-pointer.
Caitlin Hose, averaging just 1.4 points, came off the bench for Georgia (21-6), and made two much-needed 3-pointers in the second quarter after the Bulldogs missed their first four.
Hannah Nihill led Drexel (14-9) with 22 points, going 2 of 7 from 3-point range. Keishana Washington, the Dragons second-leading scorer, was held to seven points on 2-of-12 shooting.
“This game is indicative of our team all season, I thought we fought so hard and really just left it all out on the floor,” Drexel coach Amy Mallon said. “It’s what you want to see your team to do, obviously, in their last game. I just reminded them it’s not about this one game, it’s about the chance to play this game.”
UConn transfer Mikayla Coombs, who is usually the first player off the bench behind four senior starters, made her first start of the season and gave Georgia some much-needed energy in the third quarter. Junior Malury Bates made her first career start, wearing a protective face mask.
Both players finished with eight points.
Staiti entered the game at the 4:07 mark of the first quarter and Connolly checked in at the start of the second quarter, and they each played five minutes in the half.
The odds weren’t in Drexel’s favor as the last 14-16 seed to win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament was No. 16-seed Harvard’s victory over No. 1 Stanford in 1998.