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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Georgia upsets A&M in SEC Tournament semifinals

Northwestern+State+recap
Courtesy of Bailey Orr/Texas A&M Athletics
Northwestern State recap

For the first time since 2014, the SEC’s regular season champion will not play in the conference tournament final.
No. 1 seed Texas A&M women’s basketball fell to No. 4 seed Georgia 74-68 in the SEC Tournament semifinals after the Bulldogs shot over 43 percent from the floor and over 57 percent from the three-point line.
After beating Kentucky in the tournament quarterfinals, Georgia stormed into Saturday’s game with energy and aggressiveness. Outscoring A&M 25-13 in the first quarter, the Bulldogs were a perfect 4-of-4 from the three-point line and senior center Jenna Staiti had four block to help Georgia’s defense keep A&M from making easy shots.
Saturday’s loss gives A&M its second of the season and first against a ranked opponent as Georgia is ranked No. 16 in the nation.
“We really respected Georgia today even before the game started,” A&M coach Gary Blair said. “We just got beat by a team that played better than us today. I didn’t say they were better, I said they played better. I think our kids will admit to that. They got all of the hustle points and loose balls. Staiti had six blocks and probably changed about six others.”
Staiti, a second team All-SEC pick, finished the game with a 13-point, 12-rebound double-double and six total blocks. Staiti’s presence in the paint held A&M senior center Ciera Johnson to just 1-of-1 from the field with only two points in the game.
SEC Coach of the Year, Georgia’s Joni Taylor, said Staiti’s play today was a game changer for her team, which lost to A&M in the regular season 60-48.
“Jenna Staiti played 12 minutes in the regular season [game against A&M],” Taylor said. “Tonight she played 35 minutes. She has 13 points, six blocked shots … Even when she’s not scoring, she’s a rim protector, she rebounds, she stretches the defense for us, offensively stretches the floor.
After a lackluster first quarter, the Aggies outscored Georgia 22-7 in the second, giving A&M its first lead of the game. Senior center N’dea Jones led the Aggies into halftime with 11 points.
Jones said her team’s inability to hold onto its lead in the second half is due to not only Georgia’s defense, but mental errors for A&M.
“Credit UGA for their defense,” Jones said. “But personally I don’t think it’s what they were doing, it’s what we were doing. We got into our [own] heads. We weren’t in the flow of our offensive sets like we normally get into. It was just us. Our team wants to start on the defensive end and that carries over to the offensive end. So we’ll work on both.”
The Aggies won the turnover game against Georgia, scoring 20 points off of turnovers, but Georgia was fatal from beyond the arc with eight made three-pointers to A&M’s four.
Georgia senior guard Maya Caldwell led all scorers with 19 points and had momentum-setting three-pointers in the first, third and fourth quarters.
“We know we still have unfinished business,” Caldwell said. “Again, we’re soaking up this victory, but we’re not done yet. We still have tomorrow.”
While the Bulldogs prepare for the SEC Tournament finale Sunday, the Aggies await the NCAA Tournament seeding reveal on March 15. Despite the loss, A&M is still expected to enter the 64-team tournament as a No. 1 seed.
“I just hope we get a good draw,” Blair said. “That’s the most important thing you want now. Hopefully we’ll be able to hold onto a 1 seed. You know how committees are; you never know what’s going to happen.”
The NCAA Tournament is set to begin on March 21, with all games taking place in the greater-San Antonio area. Jones said the Aggies are excited for the chance to play for a national title in their home state.
“I think it will be kind of a home game, especially with some of the Texas fans,” Jones said. “All the other Texas schools will also kind of have a home game. It will be nice. I think it will be really good to try to bring the trophy back.”

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