GREENVILLE, S.C. — Georgia coach Joni Taylor wasn’t sure what to think as Mikayla Coombs was down beneath the basket in pain, 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 UConn transfer returned for the second half, scoring 12 of her season-high 14 points and leading the No. 16 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 Bulldogs (20-5) denied the SEC regular-season champion Aggies (23-2) a chance to sweep the league titles.
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.
“It’s who she is,” she said.
Coombs has come off the bench in her first season with the Bulldogs, scoring in double figures just three times before Texas A&M.
“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 NCAA Tournament, 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 in either No. 7 South Carolina or No. 14 Tennessee.
“We know we still have unfinished business,” Caldwell said.
Texas A&M shook off a jubilant Sunday celebration of the SEC regular-season title to start strongly at the league tournament with a 77-58 win over LSU.
But the Aggies were inconsistent against Georgia, falling behind 25-13 in the opening quarter before rallying to lead 35-32 at the half.
Texas A&M looked like it had taken control in the third quarter with an 8-0 that put them ahead 46-41. That’s when Coombs, a 5-foot-9, junior got to work.
Her layup put Georgia up 47-46 in a sequence when the lead changed hands five times, the last on another blow-bye by Coombs.
Texas A&M closed to 59-55 in the final five minutes, but consecutive 3-pointers by Que Morrison and Caldwell put things out of reach.
N’dea Jones led the Aggies with 16 points.
Aaliyah Wilson, the Aggies’ leading scorer this season, struggled to find her shot at the tournament. She was a combined 5 of 18 from the field for 13 points in the two games here.
THE BIG PICTURE
Georgia: The Bulldogs are seeking their first SEC Tournament title since 2001 when now SEC Network analyst Andy Landers was their coach. They won both meetings with Tennessee this season and kept things close much of the way in a 62-50 loss to the Gamecocks.
Texas A&M: The Aggies struggled to find a consistent scorer while Wilson struggled. Alexis Morris, the Rutgers transfer, provided that Friday off the bench with 13 points in eight minutes. This time, Morris was just 2 of 8 despite with her 11 points mostly coming from the foul line.
BEATING NO. 2
Georgia’s last time defeating a No. 2-ranked team also involved a Texas team as the Bulldogs defeated the Longhorns in the 2004-05 season.
Georgia’s Caldwell said it would’ve been easy to give in when the Aggies wiped out the team’s big early lead. But the Bulldogs knew there was time to turn things around. “We all knew what we wanted and we were able to pull it out in the second half,” she said.
Georgia will play No. 7 South Carolina or No. 14 Tennessee for the SEC Tournament championship.
Texas A&M is expected to be a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.