With three of the SEC’s most prolific scorers on the floor, it was Georgia’s Tyree Crump who made the biggest basket of the night.
The senior from Bainbridge made a 3-pointer in the final minutes to halt a furious Arkansas rally and give the Bulldogs the edge they needed to close out a heart-racing 99-89 win before another sellout crowd at Stegeman Coliseum Saturday.
“That was a high, high-level game we just played,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said. “There’s a reason why maybe 20 NBA teams were here tonight.”
They were there to see Georgia’s Anthony Edwards and the Razorbacks’ Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones, and the players did their parts. All three of the NBA prospects finished with 26 points each. Junior Rayshaun Hammonds also had 22 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs.
But it was the last three of Crump’s 14 points that proved most critical to assuring victory. The long-range specialist buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Georgia a 90-84 lead with 1:35 to play. That followed a Crump layup and a bounce-pass feed to Hammonds for another layup to get the Bulldogs ahead by three.
All 14 of Crump’s points came in the second half on 4-of-6 3-point shooting and 5-of-7 overall. He played only four minutes and missed one shot in the first half.
“After I made that first 3, I told them ‘I’m feeling it now,’ ” said Crump, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer at the end of the Vanderbilt game the previous Saturday. “Once I made the third one, it was over. I knew I was in a groove.”
Edwards took over from there. After Crump’s 3-pointer, the freshman guard scored Georgia’s last nine points of the game on four free throws, a driving dunk and a three-point play. It was the 19th time the 6-5 guard has led the Bulldogs in scoring. He also had seven rebounds as UGA won the battle of the boards 41-29.
Edwards was not available for postgame interviews, but Crean spoke for the projected NBA lottery pick.
“That's another level for him,” Georgia’s coach said. “We ask a lot of him, and I hope nobody is losing sight of how much progress he's making. When you're ranked like he is and when you have the expectation level that he has, there is nowhere to go but down. ... Well, he's going up. He's getting better all the time and he's getting better at so many different things. Today he persevered and he bounced back a couple times in that game and made a huge difference."
The performance came before an announced attendance of 10,011, which represented a record 10th crowd of more than 10,000 at Stegeman Coliseum this season. That broke the UGA total attendance record with 154,064 watching the Bulldogs’ home games this season. The previous record was set in Crean’s inaugural season last year at 148,780.
“I just can’t thank the fans enough for setting this record,” Crean said. “I will thank the students again on Wednesday night when we set that student attendance record, and I just found out that we had our 10th game of 10,000-plus which is another school record. We don’t win this game tonight without the fans. We just don’t.”
It was Georgia’s third win in the last four games, the only loss coming in overtime on the road against South Carolina Wednesday. The Bulldogs (15-14, 5-11 SEC) play their final home game Wednesday against Florida. They’re 12-4 at home this season.
It was a costly loss for Arkansas (18-11, 6-10), which was getting some mention as an NCAA tournament bubble team.
The game couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for Georgia. The Bulldogs flew out of the gate to a 14-0 lead -- with Hammonds scoring seven of the points and 17 in the first half – and missed the chance to take it to 16 with a turnover.
But after Georgia pulled ahead by 18 on an Edwards 3-pointer at the 8:34 mark, Arkansas whittled it down to 47-39 by halftime.
“Coach Crean always preaches that you have got to have two 20-minute halves,” Crump said. “We try to take it in four-minute stretches at a time. You have to win those four minutes, then the last two minutes of the game to close it out. As coach Crean always says, ‘momentum is always up for grabs.’ ”
Crump and the Bulldogs grabbed it this time.
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