KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Georgia returned home from another loss at Tennessee hoping this latest setback doesn't prove doubly painful.
Junior guard/forward Shacobia Barbee was helped off the court Sunday with less than three minutes left in the first half of the 22nd-ranked Lady Bulldogs' 59-51 loss at No. 5 Tennessee. There was no immediate word on the severity of her injury.
Barbee walked to the locker room on crutches just before halftime and didn't return to the game. If Barbee misses a significant length of time, it would leave a gaping hole in Georgia's roster. She entered the day as the Lady Bulldogs' top scorer (12.0) and second-leading rebounder (7.0).
"She's one of our main leaders," said Mackenzie Engram, who led Georgia with 14 points. "I think some of us are going to have to step up, some young ones are going to have to step up and become the leaders that she (has been)."
Barbee's injury comes as Georgia (17-4, 5-3 SEC) is in the midst of four straight games against ranked foes, though the Lady Bulldogs do have several days off. Georgia beat No. 10 Texas A&M 54-51 on Thursday, travels to No. 14 Kentucky on Feb. 1 and hosts top-ranked South Carolina on Feb. 5.
Georgia proved Sunday it could be competitive even at less than full strength. Georgia held Tennessee scoreless for the first eight-plus minutes of the second half to take a five-point lead.
Tennessee's edge at the free-throw line made the difference in a game of spurts that featured extended scoring droughts by each team. Tennessee (17-3, 7-0) was 20 of 21 on free throws, while Georgia was 3 of 7.
"Both teams probably did what they wanted to do defensively for the most part," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "I thought Tennessee defended well and made it hard for us to score. I thought we defended well and made it hard for them to score except, when they scored, we took unnecessary risk and ended up fouling them and putting them at the free-throw line so much that it affected the game big-time."
Jordan Reynolds scored a career-high 15 points to lead Tennessee. Krista Donald had 12 points for Georgia.
Georgia went on a 14-3 run to grab a 22-14 lead late in the first half. Tennessee responded with 14 straight points and led 30-25 at halftime. Georgia started the second half on a 10-0 run to go ahead 35-30, but Tennessee scored the next 12 points.
Tennessee missed its first 12 shots of the second half before Cierra Burdick's putback with 11:52 remaining. Georgia later went scoreless for a stretch of 6 minutes, 45 seconds.
Georgia regained the lead 45-44 on a 3-pointer from Pachis Roberts, but Isabelle Harrison's three-point play with 5:51 left put Tennessee back ahead for good and started a 12-1 run.
"If we don't hit big free throws, we don't win the game," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said.
Georgia: Although the Lady Vols lead the all-time series 46-15 or 47-15, depending on which school's doing the accounting (Tennessee counts a 1969 victory that isn't included in Georgia's records), Georgia's 15 wins are tied for the second-most of any team over Tennessee. Maryville College also has 15 wins over Tennessee, and Louisiana Tech has 17.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols beat Georgia for the seventh straight time and the 15th time in their last 16 meetings. Georgia's only win in that stretch was a 53-50 decision in Athens on Jan. 21, 2010.
Georgia lost Barbee late in the first half and had other key players battling foul trouble. Tennessee's two leading scorers - Ariel Massengale and Harrison - were both held scoreless for the first 28 ½ minutes of the game.
That forced both teams to rely on unusual contributors. Each team's bench scored 25 points.
Georgia travels to No. 14 Kentucky on Feb. 1.
Tennessee visits Kentucky on Thursday.
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