DULUTH — Only one year removed from a first-game upset, Georgia didn’t waste any time putting those demons to rest.
Tiaria Griffin hit a 3-pointer on Georgia’s first possession to start the Lady Bulldogs on their way to a 71-53 win against LSU in the Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinals on Friday at the Gwinnett Center Arena.
“I pretty much knew what we were going to do during the play,” Griffin said. “So I was just ready to shoot.”
No. 3-seeded Georgia (25-5) will play No. 2-seeded Kentucky (26-4) in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Gwinnett Center Arena. Georgia has not advanced to the SEC championship game since 2004. Georgia beat Kentucky 75-71 in their only previous meeting this season in Lexington, Ky.
“It means a lot to win this,” Georgia senior forward Jasmine Hassell said. “When we first got here, our senior class had summer meetings as freshmen then. Our theme was change. Before we leave here we want to change it and we want to change it big by going out and winning an SEC championship.”
Griffin hit a pair of 3-pointers and Jasmine James sank another as Georgia scored nine of the game’s first 12 points. Georgia hit 16 of 31 (51.6 percent) from the field in the first half led by 10 at halftime. Georgia held the Tigers (24-6) to 9 of 33 (27.3 percent) field goal shooting in the second half to eventually win by 18 points.
“They (Georgia) really set the tone early,” LSU forward Theresa Plaisance said. “They hit three 3s right off the bat. We dug ourselves a hole. That’s something we’ve always done. We’ve never lost faith. We tried to fight our way out of it but they just kept executing their game play. Things were just going all their way.”
Hassell led Georgia with 19 points and eight rebounds. Griffin added 15 points, all on 3-pointers, and Anne Marie Armstrong chipped in 12 points. Shacobia Barbee had 11 and 10 rebounds while James finished with 10 points for the Lady Bulldogs.
“I watched (Griffin) today at shoot around,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “She just wore it out. She was stroking it really, really good yesterday. But there’s so much more that goes into that. Did she hit shots? Yeah but she moved to the right spots at the right time based on what her teammates were doing. Her teammates identified no look, no look and then there she was.”
Adrienne Webb led LSU with 16 points, Plaisance had 13 points and Danielle Ballard had 10 points. LSU lost 6-foot-4 forward Shanece McKinney when she hit her head in a fall after playing just seven minutes.
“Georgia tonight had our number,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “They did a great job of executing their game play. But this was not our best performance by any stretch. I feel like we got a lot of looks at the basket. We didn’t do what we needed to do as far as knocking down shots. But on the flipside of it defensively, when you lose Shanece McKinney, one of our better low-post defenders, I do think that plays a role.”
A 3-pointer at the buzzer by Plaisance pulled LSU within 40-30 going into halftime. Georgia all but put the game away with a 10-4 run to start the second half as Hassell hit a pair of short jumpers. Armstrong hit a free throw and Georgia led 50-34 with 13:34 left.
“It’s always good to get on top of a team because when you’re there, you can keep your foot there,” Hassell said. “We just wanted to make sure we cam ut and made a statement.”
NOTEWORTHY: Georgia outscored LSU 30-16 in the paint, led by Hassell’s 19 points. … Anne Marie Armstrong scored in double figures for just the third time since New Year’s Day. … James’ 3-pointer in the first half was her second of the season. She hit 1 of 3 from the 3-point line against LSU and is 2 of 23 (8.7 percent) for the season. … Georgia out-rebounded LSU 46-36 and had 14 second-chance points.