'Not the end of the world': Why Lady Bulldogs can move past streak, find success again

Lady Bulldogs head to Alabama on Thursday before its first off week of the season.

Georgia center Jenna Staiti (14) looks on during a game at Texas A&M on Jan. 31. (Photo courtesy of Craig Bisacre — Texas A&M Athletics)

ATHENS, Ga. — On Tuesday afternoon, Georgia kicked off another week of practice. It took a few moments before getting on the court to review tape from Texas A&M and study what went awry.

The memories were still fresh from Sunday evening’s loss in the heart of (well, maybe middle-of-nowhere) Texas. Georgia hung in despite a sloppy shooting performance for 28 minutes of play, but a lopsided third quarter derailed the Lady Bulldogs and led to the final 60-48 tally.

Jenna Staiti, who spoke to the media before the aforementioned film session, already had a good idea of what the game’s re-watch would show.

“Those careless turnovers,” Staiti said. “Thats something that really kills us, because teams capitalize when we turn over the ball. We need to capitalize when we turn teams over.”

No. 25 Georgia already shifted its mindset on the two-hour flight home from College Station, but the switch completely flipped once the team returned to the court. Two objectives existed: improve on the team’s recent errors and focus on Thursday night’s game at Alabama (7 p.m., SEC Network).

In a way, Sunday’s loss almost didn’t exist anymore. Georgia has clearly stated the need to minimize turnovers, reduce fouls and run a smoother offense. Now, the Lady Bulldogs put it into action while not getting fixated on a 1-3 dry spell.

Before the Jan. 21 loss at South Carolina, for reference, Georgia had a record of 12-1 and went undefeated in conference play.

“If we look too much into these losses, it will carry into these games,” Staiti said. “The coaches have done a great job in telling us, 'It's not the end of the world.' This league is tough, we know that. Losing is not ideal. But we can take care of what has lost us those games.”

Georgia, despite having four losses in conference play, still finds itself in a good spot with six games remaining until the SEC tournament in early March. The Lady Bulldogs’ NET ranking sits at 21 as of the morning of Feb. 4. Georgia has two wins over teams above it in the rankings — Georgia Tech (20) and Tennessee (21). Both of those victories came on the road, and Arkansas sits at No. 25 after beating UConn last Thursday night.

A win over Alabama (30th in NET) would give Georgia another quality win. On the remaining schedule, Georgia has games against Tennessee (14), Kentucky (22) Missouri (40), Florida (62) and Auburn (128). Five of the six games are against teams which rank within the top 100 of the NET.

According to the latest bracket projection by ESPN’s Charlie Creme, Georgia holds a No. 4 seed in top-seeded UConn’s region. He currently has the Lady Bulldogs slated against UT-Martin, with the potential for a rematch with fifth-seeded Georgia Tech.

The metrics prove it’s not a dire moment for Georgia. It must move forward, however, and fine tune its play.

“We obviously can't get this game back. We can't get LSU's game back,” senior point guard Gabby Connally said. “I'm looking forward to getting ready for the next one. We can't keep living in the past. Our spirits are high. We have to get back to doing what we do.”

Georgia’s most-evident dip in performance comes in the scoring column. The Lady Bulldogs’ offense looked potent in the season’s early stages. They were able to run and score at will. That has changed, however, in recent SEC games. Georgia has scored at least 20 points below its average in the three losses and has struggled to find an answer in the half-court offense.

Certainly, some of that can be attributed to an increase in competition. The turnovers are a contributing factor. But Georgia lacks the same offensive flow that it presented prior to the recent spell of losses. The team’s scoring average in SEC games, consequently, has dropped to 63.4 points per game.

Taylor said Georgia will have to adjust to the zone defense. LSU stymied the Lady Bulldogs with it. So did Texas A&M. She’s not expecting anything different from Alabama. Georgia needs to get back to a simpler catch-and-shoot approach, Taylor said, rather than putting too much thought in an offensive set. Taylor believes that easy baskets can allow Georgia to “not feel so tight.”

A swing in momentum can bring Georgia back to the success it had in weeks prior. The Lady Bulldogs still believe in their depth, talent and potential to make a run. They also knew these spells were possible for any team in conference play.

“This is what the SEC is. You can't place too much on one game and start wanting to rip up everything you've done that got you to this point,” Taylor said. “That's this league. Am I happy we lost (on Sunday)? No. We can't kick over the apple cart either, and we have to get back to doing what we do.”

The world is not ending for Georgia’s aspirations by losing two games. A chance to return to previous prosperity continues at Alabama.

But another SEC opponent doesn’t make the latest test any easier.

“We bring that confidence to the younger players, tell them it's OK and have them in the same groove we're in,” Staiti said of snapping the streak. “We need to express that we can get back to where we need to be.”