The makings of Tineya Hylton’s defensive sequence that stole the show at Arkansas
The freshman, who has been at Georgia since Dec. 30, drew a charge and collected a steal in the final possessions.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (virtually) — Tineya Hylton joined the Georgia women’s basketball team seven weeks ago. She has played in four games, and only more than five minutes twice. She isn’t a part of the team’s normal rotation.
None of that mattered in the most-crucial moments of Thursday night’s nailbiter. Twenty-seven seconds remained when Sarah Ashlee Barker picked up a fifth disqualifying foul. Taylor looked to Hylton for her defensive prowess. After Jenna Staiti converted an and-1 opportunity, Arkansas trailed by a point with presumably the final possession.
Hylton had other plans.
She faceguarded Makayla Daniels, Arkansas’ primary threat who led the game with 21 points for the Razorbacks. Hylton maneuvered around a screen, and impeded Daniels’ path to the basket. She drew one of the most-vital charges of Georgia’s season with 10 seconds remaining.
“She was on a roll,” fellow freshman guard Reigan Richardson said, who scored 15 points to lead Georgia. “I knew it was clamps after that.”
Georgia, in a position where Arkansas had to foul, committed a five-second violation and coughed up possession to the Razorbacks. Arkansas had a last gasp and could pull out a victory on its home court with a made basket.
Once more, Hylton had other plans.
Daniels dribbled past the halfcourt stripe, and Hylton dodged another screen. Daniels allowed the play to develop for a split-second too long. Hylton swiped possession away, and picked up the basketball as the final buzzers blared.
“It all happened so fast,” Hylton said. “I knew my team needed that extra push. I just did it.”
Georgia (19-8, 8-7 SEC) escaped with a 63-62 victory that it needed for momentum as the regular season draws to a close. The Lady Bulldogs rallied from a 13-point deficit and had strong contributions from its bench. The biggest moment, however, came from Hylton’s defensive flash when very few could’ve expected a freshman — an early enrollee, at that — to create one of the signature moments of conference play.
“We put her out there because she’s really good,” Taylor said. “This was a great moment for her, because it shows what happens if you trust the process. We knew what she was capable of, and she got the stops we needed.”
Hylton arrived on Georgia’s campus on Dec. 30. She became the earliest-arriving piece of a recruiting class that is regarded as the best in Taylor’s seven-year tenure. When the class of 2022 prospects inked their national letter-of-intent in November, much of the discussion centered around in-state products Janiah Barker and Sydney Bowles.
Barker, ranked as the No. 3 prospect nationally by ESPN, has expectations to be an immediate impact player as a McDonald’s All-American. Bowles, finishing out her days as a prep star at Woodward Academy, is a highly-rated four-star prospect and the 37th-overall prospect nationally based on ESPN’s rankings.
Then there’s Hylton, the nifty 5-foot-7 freshman from north of the border. Not many saw the guard from Toronto as a hot name in the recruiting world. She doesn’t even have a prospect profile on any of the major recruiting outlets.
Turns out, she’s the one who only had to wait a matter of weeks to have her star-studded moment in the SEC.
“It means everything to be put in that position to show my potential,” Hylton said in her first-ever meeting with reporters. “This builds that trust with my team. It felt really good.”
Upon her arrival at Georgia, Hylton’s role wasn’t publicly known. Even if she didn’t play much as an early enrollee, the obvious benefit of learning behind Que Morrison and other experienced backcourt talents presented itself. A vacancy in that area would open up after Morrison’s departure as a fifth-year senior, after all.
Hylton, however, made her debut a week-and-a-half after joining the program in a Jan. 9 win over Alabama. She played five first-half minutes when Georgia trailed by a large margin and Taylor exhausted all options to find a rhythm. Hylton fired up three shots and missed all of them.
Hylton didn’t see the floor for another month. She spent the time focused on development, and learning the many intricacies of Georgia’s schemes. Richardson said Hylton’s defensive skills popped in practice and showed “she can guard anybody.”
“I (kept) grinding. I try to feed off of everybody in practice and soak in all of the information I can get,” Hylton said. “That would allow me to showcase my skill when my time comes.”
The potential flashed at LSU, another game where Georgia trailed by a large margin in the first half and rallied back in the final two periods. She logged 10 minutes and scored a career-best nine points. Her showing in Baton Rouge set the stage for appearances in the following two games against South Carolina and Missouri.
Taylor is rather persistent in imploring her players to remain ready for an opportunity. Georgia’s rotations can change frequently and it’s dependent on who is playing well. On Thursday, Hylton’s time came yet again. She came in for three first-half minutes, and sat midway through the second quarter until the final 27 seconds of play.
“She's really talented, so that helps, and she listens,” Taylor said. “She's quick and makes corrections in real-time. That's going to help you out.”
As the final second in Bud Walton Arena ticked away, Hylton heaved the basketball through the air. The only roars heard came from the Georgia bench. They all mobbed Hylton with elation in a moment that’s even hard to script.
A substitution of 27 seconds in length became the signature moment in Hylton’s seven-week journey, and one that’ll be remembered for much longer.
“She never lets up,” Richardson said. “That really showed tonight.”