Georgia and Mercer are set to do battle for the second time this season.
This time, it is in the first round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament. Georgia drew a No. 4 seed and will host No. 13 seed Mercer in the first round Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum. The game will be a part of the Albany (New York) Regional, with No. 1 seed Connecticut headlining this particular quarter of the bracket.
The winner of the Georgia-Mercer game will face the victor of No. 5 seed Duke and No. 12 seed Belmont the following Monday.
Georgia and Mercer played against each other on Nov. 19, with the Lady Bulldogs winning 72-54. Since that game, the Bears have only lost one other game en route to a 30-2 overall record. With the two teams playing each other every season, there is a lot of familiarity between the programs.
"I just remember them being a go-get-it team," sophomore Taja Cole. "They never let up. I think they knew us very well, and we knew them very well from playing each other over the years. I'm excited to play against them and I'm excited to play at home."
For Georgia (25-6), this is the first time it is hosting an NCAA Tournament game since the 2002-03 season. Teams that draw a seed one through four get home-court advantage for first two rounds.
This was a big factor for the Lady Bulldogs, which missed out on the NCAA Tournament a year ago. Senior forward Mackenzie Engram said the past three years, which included a one-and-done trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2016, haven't gone according to plan for a program that has been to the big dance 32 previous times.
Now that Georgia is in as a top-four seed, Engram is ecstatic to be among the hosting teams. This will also be the first tournament she can take part in as she was unable to participate in 2016 against Indiana. Then, Engram was dealing with pericarditis, which prevented her from playing in the final half of that season.
"I wasn't able to play and that hurt," Engram said. "But everything happens for a reason and I think this is my reason. I'm really excited for it. As a senior, being able to host and play in Athens again is everything."
While it has been a while since the two teams played each other, Georgia is expected to see a Mercer squad that has shown growth throughout the season. While a No. 13 seed, the Bears are actually ranked 25th in the nation in the AP women's poll. Georgia is No. 18.
Head coach Joni Taylor said she remembered a feisty Mercer squad when facing them earlier in the year.
"Tremendous guard play. They're very well-coached," Taylor said. "(Mercer head coach) Susie (Gardner) has done a tremendous job there. We have a lot of respect for their program and their players. They just make it really tough. They're gritty, they're feisty. They shoot the ball really well. They execute on the offensive end and they're going to make it tough for us to score. We've got our hands full."