Athens, GA — What started off, as a seeming blowout game between Georgia and Vanderbilt, ended in a nail-biting finish with Georgia’s Stephanie Paul sinking the game-winning shot. The Lady Bulldogs were able to pull off a win Sunday afternoon, defeating the Commodores, 70-68.
Vanderbilt came blasting out the gate as the Commodores scored 21 points in the first quarter alone. And within the first half, Vandy grabbed 21 rebounds and secured eight second-chance points. This caused Georgia to rethink its strategy.
“[Vanderbilt’s Marqu’es] Webb is a load, so we just continued to sub in off of her and…tried to contain her as best as possible,” said UGA Head Coach Joni Taylor. “The message was to wall up, and on the offensive end, try to get [Webb] in foul trouble or just take it inside.”
Once the Lady Bulldogs got the defensive stops they needed, they looked for easy baskets and getting the ball inside, Coach Taylor said.
Georgia pounded the ball in the paint as they took advantage of their height. Vanderbilt has no player over 6-foot-1, and Caliya Robinson made that known with seven blocks throughout the game.
“I think that when we make defensive stops it bring out the offense,” said Robinson. “So I knew that if I did what I had to do, we’d be able to score off of those.”
And she was right. An active Lady Bulldogs’ defense brought out their confidence on offense and shots effortlessly dropped.
Shanea Armbrister led the team to score 22 points in the second quarter and come back from a 13-point deficit by the end of the first half.
Intermission began with Georgia trailing only by one point behind the Commodores, 33-32.
But, the fire ignited by Armbrister in the second quarter raged on well into the second half.
“We had to get our minds right in the locker room,” said Armbrister. “We talked about picking the energy up, picking each other up, and that’s what we did.”
Paul was gasoline for the Lady Bulldogs in the third quarter, and their fire exploded. The team put up an additional 27 points, with eight points from Paul and six points from Robinson.
Still, Vanderbilt was able to stay competitive in the final two-quarters by forcing fouls and sinking free throws. However, it wasn’t enough for the Commodores to hold on to the lead. As the teams entered the fourth period, Georgia was ahead, 59-55.
“They hit a lot of shots where we had to challenge them to make [it],” said Vanderbilt coach Stephanie White.
The excitement grew during the final 10 minutes as the lead went back and forth between the two teams.
The score was tied, 68-68, with mere seconds left on the clock.
“We wanted to take the last shot,” said Bulldog’s Armbrister. “It didn’t matter if we made it or not; we were okay with playing overtime.”
With that message in mind, a fearless Paul took the pass from Armbrister to sink the game-winning shot, 70-68.
“I tried to cut to an open space, thank god I was open,” said Paul. “I turned around and took a bunny shot – shots that we take a lot in practice – so I knew I was going to be able to make it.”
The crowd erupted as the final 0.3 seconds counted down to a Georgia victory.
The Lady Bulldogs will face the South Carolina Gamecocks Thursday at 7 p.m. ET, and Vanderbilt meets Auburn at home also on Thursday at 8 p.m ET.