Georgia star Meredith Mitchell's foul trouble ended up cost the Lady Bulldogs on Sunday in their first-round NCAA Tournament matchup against Marist, which got her to commit four before the end of the first half before she eventually fouled out early in the second to pave the way for the upset.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Georgia coach Andy Landers had to make a tough decision Sunday.
This time, his hunch cost the fourth-seeded Lady Bulldogs.
Meredith Mitchell was hampered by foul trouble all day and fouled out with 7:01 left in Georgia’s 76-70 loss to 13th-seeded Marist in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Landers was counting on the veteran guard to avoid that critical fifth foul, but that critical whistle happened when she tried to stop Corielle Yarde’s drive on the baseline.
“I knew it was a roll of the dice, especially the way the game was being played with all of the drives that were occurring,” Landers said. “If you choose between playing someone with fouls and letting a game get away from you, I mean, this is the last game for somebody. If you choose between playing a veteran senior who understands the predicament that she’s in and a freshman who has been inconsistent, then that was an easy decision for me to make.”
Mitchell, who finished with 15 points in 19 minutes, blamed herself.
“I made some stupid plays at the end and it cost the team,” said Mitchell, who picked up her fourth foul with four minutes remaining in the first half. “I should have been a lot smarter with my fouls.”
Georgia, which had advanced to the NCAA round of 16 in each of the past two seasons, fought back from a 46-35 deficit early in the second half before Marist seniors Yarde and Brandy Gang took over.
“They hurt us with the drive,” Landers said. “Our defense wasn’t very good and they were very good with executing their drive options, which led to layups and fouls.”
The Lady Red Foxes (26-7) shot 52.5 percent and made 21 of 25 free throws for its 11th straight win and first ever against Georgia, which shot 40.3 percent and was six of eight at the line.
“You’re never prepared for that loss,” Landers said. “It’s difficult regardless of which round you go out in because you want to play for championships. It’s hard.”
Yarde scored 21 points and Gang had 18.
Khaalidah Miller led Georgia (22-9) with 21 points, and Jasmine James had 12. Miller went 5 for 12 from 3-point range, sinking one at the final buzzer.
Jasmine Hassell, Georgia’s leading scorer, was limited to six points and six rebounds, and Krista Donald had eight points and nine rebounds.
Georgia was hoping for more in its 18th consecutive NCAA appearance, but instead will regroup.
“We were very disappointed with the game we played this evening,” said Miller, a sophomore. “But over the year as a team we played very well together, and I’m looking forward to playing with everyone next year.”