Remember all those shots Anthony Edwards missed at Auburn? Well, he didn’t miss them Tuesday night against Tennessee.
Georgia's star freshman known as Ant Man put on a show before another lively, near-capacity crowd at Stegeman Coliseum, which included former UGA football stars Matthew Stafford and David Pollack. Edwards showed all aspects of his repertoire, making 3s (5 of 10), grabbing rebounds (six) and throwing down dunks on the way to 26 points as the Bulldogs slammed Tennessee 80-63.
The resurrection of Edwards' shot was no accident. He said he spent the last few nights working on it, sometimes until after midnight. That started with Georgia's arrival back on campus Saturday after a lopsided loss at Auburn
“I came right to the gym,” said Edwards, whose scoring total Wednesday was the third highest of his freshman campaign. “I was in here until 1 o'clock (a.m.) on Monday and yesterday I was in here until 10:30 or 11. Most of the time I'm in here late night because that's when I've got my most energy and I've got nothing to do.”
Most of Edwards' good work Wednesday came in the first half, when he scored 20 points and paced Georgia to a 47-28 lead. He cooled off some in the second half, but stayed busy on defense and distributing the ball (three assists).
Edwards left the court to a rousing ovation with 1:46 remaining.
Georgia coach Tom Crean was asked if it was the best overall game so far for Edwards, who scored 37 points in a loss to Michigan State earlier this season.
“I'd say pretty close, yeah, because of the way he attacked,” Crean said. “There was a great mix. He's got a lot of pride. He didn't like the way he played the other day. He didn't like missing the free throws and those types of things. He's very, very serious about being a winner.”
Rayshaun Hammonds added 21 points for the Bulldogs, who shot 47.4% from the field.
With the victory, the Bulldogs (11-5, 1-2 SEC) match their win total for all of last season, their first under Crean. Georgia's win came a year after losing to Tennessee by 46 points in Knoxville. The Bulldogs led this one by as many as 26.
It was an extremely important win for Georgia, which was in danger of falling to 0-3 in league play with road trips to Mississippi State and Kentucky up next. It also atoned for last Saturday's blowout loss at Auburn.
The Vols fall to 10-6 and 2-2 in conference play. They were led by Jordan Bowden with 12 points.
“You have to give Georgia credit, but I'm disappointed in just about everything I could be disappointed in,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said.
The only downside for Georgia was losing freshman guard Sahvir Wheeler to a right-ankle injury with 9:23 remaining in the game. He had five points and four assists at the time.
Crean did not have an update but said Wheeler would be getting rehab and would be monitored “24/7.”
Thanks primarily to Edwards, Georgia shot out to a 22-point lead in the first half. The Bulldogs went up 47-25 on Edwards’ fourth 3-pointer of the night, which came with 52 seconds to go. It followed Edwards’ fast-break dunk and two fouls shots before that, all within a span of just over a minute.
The Bulldogs trailed for a few minutes early in the game. But after falling behind 12-8, Georgia outscored its visitors 39-16 over the final 13:36 of the half.
That was particularly impressive considering Hammonds drew two fouls in a 30-second span than sent him to the bench just four minutes into the game. He’d return, but in brief and cautious spurts.
Meanwhile, Edwards was making sure the Bulldogs stayed heated up on offense. He served notice by making his first 3-point attempt of the night less than three minutes into the game, added two more in short order and dropped in his first jumper and foul shots as well.
“He's a terrific player; you saw him,” Barnes said. “They had two guys with 47 points. I thought Hammonds was pretty good, too.
It was in stark contrast to the way Edwards started at Auburn last Saturday when he missed his first six 3-point attempts and seven of his first nine free throws.
Edwards said wasn't just going to just accept that as an off night. He said he made sure he made 22 of 22 free throws and 10 consecutive 3s every night he worked out.
“Basketball is always a business for me because I'm trying to make a lot of money playing this game,” said Edwards, who is projected to be an early first-round draft pick this year. “But you can never let the fun be taken away from it because that's why you play it, because it's fun. It's fun for me to get the crowd involved and get them revved up, so I never let the fun get taken out of it.”
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