Georgia burst out of the starting blocks against Missouri like it took its first loss of the season last week personally.
The No. 10-ranked Lady Bulldogs welcomed Missouri to the Southeastern Conference with a 77-46 thrashing on Thursday at Stegeman Coliseum.
“That first loss factored in a great bit,” Georgia freshman guard Tiaria Griffin said. “It woke us up, actually. We were jogging along, doing good and we needed something to wake us up and motivate us to go harder and harder every game. Losing will do that.”
Georgia (13-1, 1-0 in the SEC) lost its first game of the year when it fell 70-59 on Friday at Illinois. The Lady Bulldogs took out some frustration on Missouri early as it led 45-23 at halftime and were never seriously threatened again. Georgia’s next game is on Sunday at No. 13-ranked Tennessee.
“Losing made us come out more focused and made us more hungry,” Georgia freshman Shacobia Barbee said. “We just knew that we had to do the little things right. In the Illinois loss, we didn’t do the little things right. We had to come out with more focus so we can play a complete game this time.”
Missouri (11-4, 0-1) was playing its first game in the SEC and did not hold up well to Georgia’s defense. The Lady Bulldogs scored 24 points off of 21 turnovers and held the Tigers to 17 of 52 (32.7 percent) field goal shooting. Missouri led the nation in 3-pointers made per game at 9.8 and was second in the SEC in 3-point shooting at 35.5 percent before Thursday.
Georgia held the Tigers to 50 of 22 (29.6 percent) 3-point shooting.
“That was the main thing Coach (Andy Landers) was focusing on in practice, get to those 3-point shooters,” Georgia guard Khaalidah Miller said. “We were stressing that everybody on that team is a 3-point shooter except for the (center). We need to make sure that we contain them and don’t let them get going and we did that.”
Jasmine James led Georgia with 16 points on 8 of 14 shooting. Miller and Marjorie Butler each scored 11 points while Griffin had nine, Erika Ford had eight and Merritt Hempe had seven points and six rebounds for Georgia. Jasmine Hassell had a game-high eight rebounds while Tamika Willis added seven rebounds.
“This was an impressive win,” James said. “SEC play is tough night-in and night-out so for us to be able to come out and play the way we did tonight, to play and just kind of dominate, was really a good thing for us. It’s definitely a great way to start out SEC play.”
Missouri was led by Bri Kulis who scored 14 and Morgan Eye who scored 13 points. Kulis, Missouri’s leading scorer this season, played most of the second half with four fouls but did not foul out.
“It’s not just the turnovers that we forced and got, there were a number of slap hits and pops that bounced the other way and they were able to recover,” Landers said. “You add those to the ones we actually got and took the other way, it’s a good many disruptions and mentally that’s going wear on you.”
Georgia took care of business quickly, as it held the Tigers to 9 of 25 (36 percent) field goal shooting in the first half. Georgia also out-rebounded Missouri 23-14 in the first half and forced 12 turnovers that turned into 15 points.
Georgia led 13-11 with 13:38 left in the first half when Butler, Ford, Krista Donald and Griffin hit four straight 3-pointers and Georgia took a 22-11 lead with 11:31 left in the first half.
Jasmine Hassell hit a jumper with 2:06 left in the first half to cap an 11-2 run that gave Georgia a 40-17 lead.
Missouri started the second half with a 7-0 run that cut Georgia’s lead to 45-30 with 18:06 left. But Hempe hit a 3-pointer and a layup to help push Georgia’s lead out to 55-32 with 13:48 left and the advantage never dipped below 20 points again.
“I understand the strenght of the SEC and a program like Georgia with such a great tradition,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. “Coach Landers has won a lot of games this year and for many years. I don’t think they were much different than we anticipated — they’re a very veteran team with poise and toughness.”
Notes: Krista Donald scored her first points of the season and finished with five points in seven minutes. … Georgia had 16 offensive rebounds and scored 11 second-chance points. … Georgia’s bench outscored Missouri 40-21, led by 11 points from Butler. … Shacobia Barbee led the team in minutes played with 27.