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SEC play opens with No. 19 LSU at No. 13 Georgia

The Georgia Lady Bulldogs and LSU Tigers are both in good shape entering SEC play. When they square off on Thursday, there’s not much to lose, but a whole lot to gain.

Syndication: Online Athens
Jenna Staiti
Joshua L. Jones via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The No. 13 Georgia Lady Bulldogs have been back in business as an exciting team near the top of the rankings since defeating No. 5 NC State on the road on Dec. 16. After blowout wins over Saint Francis and South Alabama, the Lady Bulldogs face their first big test since that victory over the Wolfpack when they face the No. 19 LSU Tigers on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET.

When the Tigers opened their season with a loss to FGCU, it was disappointing, but it was just one game and it was against an Eagles team that was and still is receiving votes. It wasn’t enough to challenge the idea that Kim Mulkey could turn LSU around immediately. And since then, she and the Tigers have been brilliant, winning 12-straight games, including a triumph over No. 14 Iowa State that vaulted them into the rankings.

Though LSU earned a No. 6 seed in our 2020 hypothetical bracket, Georgia has the more recent experience being a top team because that’s what they were last year, making it to the SEC Tournament championship game and earning a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament. LSU, on the other hand, went 9-13 in 2020-21 (6-8 SEC). The Lady Bulldogs have returned stars Jenna Staiti and Que Morrison from last year and maybe should have been ranked to start this season. Instead, they were receiving votes.

Because of Staiti, a top-notch inside scorer who averages 14.2 points and 7.3 rebounds, and Morrison, the reigning co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC, Georgia is going to be tough to beat. But LSU has talent as well. Khayla Pointer nearly made my Top 20 seniors+ to watch list and is averaging 17.2 points, seven rebounds and 5.2 assists. Teammate Alexis Morris, reunited with Mulkey after the two spent 2017-18 together at Baylor, has been great as well, averaging 13.7 points, 3.2 assists and 2.1 steals.

This is an intriguing SEC opener for both teams. Neither has a whole lot to lose — a loss wouldn’t hurt that much — but they both have a lot to gain.

Game information:

No. 19 LSU Tigers (12-1, 0-0 SEC) vs. No. 13 Georgia Lady Bulldogs (11-1, 0-0 SEC)

When: Thursday, Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, GA

How to watch/listen: SEC Network+/Bulldogs All-Access

Key to the matchup: Rebounding. Georgia has the advantage when it comes to 3-point defense and turnover margin. If Morrison can continue to be a pesky defender on the perimeter, those things should hold up. But LSU has the advantage in rebounding margin, with frontcourt players like Autumn Newby and Faustine Aifuwa leading the way. Staiti will need to hold her own on the glass and if she can have a big game to even out the rebounding margin, that could be the difference.