NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Last year, Georgia crushed Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference tournament. This year, the Wildcats wanted to catch the Lady Bulldogs by surprise.
"We came together this year and said, ‘Let’s just lay everything out there,"’ the Wildcats’ Sarah Elliott said. "I don’t think Georgia really expected us to come out with such a momentum and speed."
Elliott scored 16 points as fourth-seeded Kentucky beat No. 23 Georgia 57-50 on Friday night in the quarterfinals, avenging last year’s loss.
Kentucky (15-14) advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2006, and will face LSU on Saturday.
Fifth-seeded Georgia (22-9) will miss the semifinals for the first time since 2003.
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said his team entered the tournament knowing they needed to advance several rounds for a shot at playing in the NCAA tournament.
"We came down here to win the tournament," he said. "We knew we had a good SEC run and we were confident we could get a win."
After trailing by 10 twice during the first half, Georgia tied the game at 39 on two free throws by Angela Puleo with 12:42 left. A minute later, Amani Franklin gave Kentucky a 41-39 lead with a layup, and the Wildcats stayed in control for the rest of the game.
"I was very proud our players responded," Mitchell said. "We didn’t sense a panic in our players at all."
Ashley Houts led a balanced Georgia offense with 10 points. Angel Robinson grabbed 14 rebounds.
The Lady Bulldogs’ leading scorer, Tasha Humphrey, was mostly ineffective as she committed four fouls. Humphrey finished with only six points, even though she entered the game averaging 17.1.
"It was obvious that they were going to do everything they could do to keep Tasha from scoring, but they did not treat Angel that way and Angel could have made up for it," Georgia coach Andy Landers said.
The teams traded the lead early until Kentucky went on a 9-0 run. Eleia Roddy hit a jumper with 5:25 before halftime to put the Wildcats up 27-17.
Georgia trimmed Kentucky’s lead to five on a 3-pointer by Christy Marshall and again on Humphrey’s jumper with 2:37 left before the break.
The Lady Bulldogs struggled to sink a shot in the first half, missing 22 field goals on 29 percent shooting, but shot 43.5 percent in the second half.
Kentucky used free throws and a 3-pointer from Chelsea Chowning to take a 34-24 lead into halftime.
The Wildcats also won the only regular season meeting between the two teams, a 47-44 decision in Athens.
"We didn’t really look at the seeds coming in. We knew we wanted to come out and make a statement because of what they did to us in Athens," Houts said. "We stepped up in the second half but just couldn’t get over the humps."