Athens, GA -- Hoping to piggy-back off of a great win against Mizzou earlier this week, the Lady Dawgs took the floor and kept everyone on the edge of their seats with a highly anticipated back-and-forth game.
UGA came out of the gates strong; pushing the ball up the floor for quick two-point conversions. Merritt Hempe maintained good positioning down on the blocks, looking for multiple high-low opportunities, all of which proved to be successful throughout the entirety of the half.
"I was just running the floor trying to get seals, and that's something that I haven't been very consistent with lately, so it's definitely been a focus of mine," said Hempe, "And then Cobi, T, and Marj, they all found me very nicely in the post, so they did a great job passing inside."
In the beginning, Ole Miss was having a tough time with UGA's zone defense, but started to hit jumpers left and right after warming up a few minutes in, which were extremely beneficial later on in the second quarter.
"Ole Miss is very athletic...so we felt what would give us the best chance to win was to play a zone," explained Head Coach Joni Taylor.
UGA's patience was tested around the arc as they continued to flirt with the shot clock and battle against the Rebel's full court defense - a strong and forceful pressure that added another element to the structure of the game.
Marjorie Butler hustled to rally the Lady Dawgs and break the press - working to create holes in the defense and push the ball up the floor or look for the dish off passes to the trailers. Later in the game, she and Tiaria Griffin proved to be a duo to reckon with, opening the gaps and creating opportunities for themselves and their teammates.
"We came into the game knowing that we had to run in transition, so I think it's just feeling the play like that," recalled Griffin, "I don't think we did anything intentionally, it just kind of happened."
Both teams seemed to be in a craze as they battled for possessions rather than taking the time to look for organized scoring opportunities. After an up-fake jumper for Ole Miss' Erika Sisk, the Rebels took the lead 12-10, and it was a continuous neck-in-neck battle from there on out.
Continuing to utilize the high-low, Hempe, Halle Washington, and Shacobia Barbee worked as a trio to put points up on the board. The Lady Dawgs found it to be most beneficial when pushing the possession up the floor as quick as possible; it became dangerous with the overhead passing across the arc when attempting to break the tight Ole Miss "D."
A low-scoring half, 30-30 at the buzzer, both team's shooting percentage sat just under 50 percent.
A fire seemed to ignite in the Lady Dawgs as they immediately jumped into the second half with recognizable tenacity. With faster cuts and heightened audibility, the girls regrouped and quickly took the lead halfway through the third quarter.
UGA began taking the time to settle on offense and look for the open cuts down low. Barbee snuck in a quick back-door lay-up at the buzzer to stretch the lead by 12 going into the fourth quarter.
The Rebels continued to settle for the outside jump shots and remain in the game, but began to slowly trail behind as they were unable to keep up with the elevated pace of the mêlée and found themselves in some foul trouble. The more the Lady Dawgs were sent to the line, the larger the point gap grew.
"We knew it would be that way," Taylor said of the game's pace, "If you watch Ole Miss on film, they are in every game that they play, especially in the first and second quarter, and then the third quarter is when if you execute, you can kind of take a lead against them and just hold on for dear life, and that's what we did...For us, it was to find organization within the chaos and make sure that that doesn't allow us to get flustered because of the way they play."
Ole Miss had a tough time battling back and staying in the game. UGA relentlessly hammered through the fourth quarter - unwilling to give up the lead they had worked towards, and finished strong with another "W" for the week and a final score of 70-56.