SEC women's tournament: Georgia wins, Lady Vols lose in semifinals

AP photo by Sean Rayford / Georgia's Mikayla Coombs shoots as South Carolina's Eniya Russell, right, and Victaria Saxton trail her on Jan. 21 in Columbia, S.C., where the host Gamecocks won 62-50. The teams meet again Sunday in the SEC tournament title game in Greenville, S.C.

GREENVILLE, S.C. - Georgia coach Joni Taylor wasn't sure what to think as Mikayla Coombs was down beneath the basket in pain with athletic trainers focused on her lower right leg.

"It scared me to death," said Taylor, who then watched as Coombs was helped off the floor in the second quarter without putting any weight on the injury.

Yet the Connecticut transfer returned for the second half, scoring 12 of her season-high 14 points and leading the 16th-ranked and fourth-seeded Lady Bulldogs into the SEC tournament semifinals for the first time in 17 years with an upset of top-seeded and No. 2 Texas A&M 74-68 on Saturday.

Maya Caldwell had 19 points and Jenna Staiti had 13 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks as the Lady Dogs (20-5) denied the Aggies (23-2) a chance to sweep the league titles. N'dea Jones scored 16 points to lead Texas A&M.

Coombs, who sat out last season, hit the bucket that put Georgia up to stay at 51-50 to start the final period. She added a driving layup moments later. And when Coombs flashed by the defense for another inside shot, Georgia was up 59-53 and would not be caught.

Caldwell said Coombs has supreme speed and often puts on a show at practice. She has come off the bench in her first season with the Bulldogs, scoring in double figures just three times before Saturday's game against the SEC regular-season champs.

"When Mikayla's aggressive, she's really hard to stop," Taylor said.

The Aggies found that out and now get a little bit longer break before finding out their spot in the NCAA tourney bracket, where they're projected as a No. 1 seed.

"It doesn't matter if you're a 1 or a 2," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. "As long as you're playing in the state of Texas, that's home to us. But we saw some mistakes today that we've got to clean up."

Georgia, which beat No. 17 Kentucky in Friday's quarterfinals, will have to face another ranked opponent in Sunday's final against No. 7 South Carolina. The Lady Dogs kept things close much of the way in a 62-50 loss to the Gamecocks in the regular season.

"We know we still have unfinished business," Caldwell said.

South Carolina 67, Tennessee 52: Aliyah Boston thinks the Gamecocks played a complete game - finally.

Zia Cooke scored 17 points, and Boston added 15 with 11 rebounds as the second-seeded Gamecocks rolled past the 14th-ranked and third-seeded Lady Volunteers, reaching the SEC final for the sixth time in seven years.

South Carolina (21-4) opened a large lead in the first quarter and never let up, something the Gamecocks struggled with down the stretch of the regular season when they had leads against at No. 1 UConn, No. 14 Tennessee and No. 2 Texas A&M, yet lost all three games.

Facing the Lady Vols (16-7) again with another large lead, South Carolina didn't let this one slip away.

"I think from the start we were locked in," Boston said. "We were playing great defense and offense was moving, so I would say that this is the first game where we played a complete 40 (minutes)."

Unlike the first meeting between these teams - Tennessee rallied from 16 down to hand South Carolina its first SEC loss in two seasons - the Gamecocks kept the pressure up throughout.

Tennessee was trying for its first appearance in the final since 2015. That year it lost the title to what was then an upstart South Carolina program, the beginning of the Gamecocks' dominance over the SEC that doesn't appear to be ending yet.

The Lady Vols were in front 11-10 on a 3-pointer by Rennia Davis midway through the first quarter when the Gamecocks took off on their game-breaking surge. Boston began the run with a 3-pointer, just her ninth of the season, and Cooke closed it with a 3-pointer and three free throws to put the Gamecocks up by 16.

The Lady Vols appeared to be dragging a bit after a hard-fought, 77-72 win over Ole Miss late Friday night, when they rallied from six points down in the fourth quarter.

"South Carolina did a great job getting physical, and we've got to be able to handle that a little bit better," Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said.

Davis, who had 33 points and 14 rebounds against Ole Miss, finished with nine points on 3-of-12 shooting.

Jordan Walker and Jordan Horston had 11 points each to lead the Lady Vols, who were held to their fewest points of the season.

Tennessee used to own this event, winning 17 times from 1980 to 2014. Now the Lady Vols' run of missing the title game has grown to six straight years, and they will have some work ahead to prepare for what they hope is a deep NCAA run.