Scouting Report: No. 16 Georgia Bulldogs


Kentucky sophomore guard Rhyne Howard takes a shot during the game against Georgia on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 88-77. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Braden Ramsey

No. 17 Kentucky gave BBN collective heart palpitations with its performance on Thursday against twelfth seeded Florida in the SEC Tournament’s second round. But, as Kyra Elzy has explained numerous times throughout this season, a win is a win. The Cats have roughly 22 and a half hours to regroup, rest up and prepare for a much more daunting opponent.

Georgia, led by sixth-year head coach Joni Taylor, has again been a force in what’s commonly believed to be the best conference in women’s college basketball. She has not had a losing record in her tenure, and picked up her 100th win in Athens back on Nov. 29 versus Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs (18-5, 10-5 SEC) come into Friday’s matchup off a 95-80 win in Gainesville over the Gator team Kentucky just faced.

With the two schools having met just eight days ago, execution will be a larger determining factor than overall scheme and game plan.

“We already have an idea of… how they’re going to play defensively, what they’re going to run offensively,” Rhyne Howard told reporters after Thursday’s win. “We just have to go back to our own game and take some clips from there.”

Jenna Staiti, a redshirt senior, is the primary cog for the conference’s fourth seed and the biggest threat to a Kentucky defense that consistently struggles on the interior. The Cats did a relatively good job holding down the 6-foot-4 center in their first meeting (16 points, four rebounds), but the All-SEC second team selection undoubtedly possesses the potential to go off in a manner similar to South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston (20 points, 12 rebounds vs. Kentucky on Jan. 10) and Ole Miss’s Shakira Austin (21.5 point, 12 rebound average in two contests with the Cats). Staiti demonstrated this in Sunday’s game with Florida when she put up 30 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks to help her squad clinch the SEC’s four spot.

The Bulldog backcourt consists of Gabby Connally, Que Morrison and Maya Caldwell. The senior starting trio combine for 31.3 points and a fraction over eight assists per outing, with Connally (12.3 PPG) and Morrison (roughly 3.5 APG) leading the categories amongst themselves. Those two had 13 points apiece when Kentucky and Georgia first met, but Caldwell had only one in a tad over 12 minutes of action.

Morrison, who was named Co-Defensive Player of the Year alongside Boston, tallied two steals per game and is essentially the Bulldog version of Chasity Patterson. But she, and the rest of the Georgia backcourt – like Patterson – has something uncontrollable working against them: height.

Morrison stands at 5-foot-7, while Caldwell is 5-foot-11 and Connally is 5-foot-6. Howard (6-foot-2), Treasure Hunt (6-foot-1) and Jazmine Massengill (6-foot-0) each have a height advantage, giving them plenty of opportunities to shoot over the defense, contribute on the boards and find passing lanes offensively, then make things difficult around the Bulldog perimeter on opposite side of the floor.

This reality enables Patterson, not competing against foes four or more inches taller than her, to have a larger impact. She had only six points yesterday, but recorded 15 when she battled Georgia two Thursday’s ago.

Mikayla Coombs is the top backcourt reserve for the Bulldogs, but owns the fourth-highest minute-per-game average on their roster. She has the second-most steals (38) and third-most assists (63) of any Georgia player and will contribute toward every aspect of the stat sheet. Sarah Ashlee Barker, another guard, was named to the All-SEC Freshman team. Javyn Nicholson (4.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG) and Malury Bates (4.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.0 block per game) serve as a well-rounded frontcourt relief duo.

The X-Factor in this game is the final member of the Georgia starting five: forward Jordyn Isaacs. The lone non-senior of that bunch records only 3.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, but recorded a near double-double of ten points and nine boards in Kentucky’s 62-58 win last week. The contributions were much needed for the Bulldogs as the Cat defense focused on Staiti. She would serve as the Madison Scott (10.5 points, nine rebounds average against Kentucky for Ole Miss) to Staiti’s Shakira Austin, and potentially cause a lot of trouble for the Wildcat defense.

Coach Elzy knows establishing a paint presence is of major importance if Kentucky is to defeat Georgia a second time, saying “one key thing we’ll have to do… is rebound the basketball.” No matter what though, this one is set to be the headlining game of the quarterfinal round.

“Georgia is a tough team. They are aggressive defensively,” Elzy elaborated. “They’re well-coached… we’ll be in another dog fight.”

The Cats and Bulldogs are set to tip off 25 minutes after the conclusion of the LSU-Texas A&M contest. The game will be broadcast right after that one on SEC Network.