The Georgia Bulldogs are dealing with their first significant injury setback as they head to Starkville for their fourth SEC game of the season Saturday.
Freshman guard Sahvir Wheeler, a real breakout player for the Bulldogs this season, suffered a right-ankle sprain midway through the second half of Wednesday’s 80-63 win over Tennessee. He has been unable to play full speed in the days since and his status for Saturday’s game against Mississippi State (8:30 p.m., SEC Network) is uncertain.
“We didn’t practice him (Thursday),” Georgia coach Tom Crean said before Friday’s practice. “He walked through all the stuff that we did, but we’re hopeful we’ll see more after today.”
Wheeler took over as the Bulldogs’ starter at lead guard only two games ago. But he had been dominating the minutes well before that. At the time of the injury Wednesday, he had five points and four assists against the Volunteers. He is averaging 9.2 points and 4.9 assists in 25 minutes of play per game.
Senior Tyree Crump (7.8 ppg) had been starting before Wheeler took over and would likely get the nod if Wheeler can’t go Saturday. But freshman Anthony “Ant Man” Edwards actually spent a lot of time bringing the ball up the floor after Wheeler went out of the Tennessee game with 9:23 to play.
“Sahvir is probably the heart and soul of the team,” Edwards said. “He’s always bringing energy every day when he’s on the court. When he went down, everybody was sad, ’cause we can’t really do anything without Sahvir. But told him when he went down, ‘I’m gonna pick you up. Don’t worry about it. You’re done for the day. I’m gonna make sure we get the win.’ You just have to be able depend on your brothers.”
The 6-foot-5 Edwards ended up with 26 points, five rebounds and three assists as the Bulldogs rolled. Edwards now is the nation’s top-scoring freshman at 19.1 points per game. He is the only first-year player ranked among the top-50 scorers in Division I hoops.
Meanwhile, the Mississippi State game comes in the middle of a grueling stretch for the Bulldogs to open SEC play. It’s the fourth of six consecutive teams Georgia plays that earned NCAA Tournament bids last spring – Kentucky, Auburn, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Kentucky (again) and Ole Miss.
The Maroon Bulldogs (10-6, 1-3 SEC) are led by Reggie Perry, a 6-10, 250-pound forward from Thomasville. He is the only player in the SEC currently averaging a double-double at 16.0 ppg and 10.0 rpg. Three other State players have double-figure scoring averages in Tyson Carter (13.6 ppg), Nick Weatherspoon (13.5) and Robert Woodard (11.3).
Georgia lost to Mississippi State 68-67 in the final seconds last year in Athens. The Bulldogs would feel better about things this year if they knew Wheeler was playing on good “wheels.”
“You just go, right?” Crean said. “That’s why you try to develop to get multi-dimensional versatile guys. Obviously, he's a huge factor in this, and we'll see how it goes.”
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