The Anthony Edwards era of Georgia basketball didn’t start like a Ferrari as many had hoped. Rather, it was like a locomotive — long, slow and dragged out. But, as trains do, the Bulldogs picked up speed late in their 91-72 season-opening win over Western Carolina Tuesday night.
The conductor of that train was the highly-touted Edwards, who posted 24 points in his college debut. But it wasn’t the number of points from Edwards that mattered for Georgia, it was when they came. Up only two points with 6:22 left in the game, Edwards hit back-to-back crucial 3-pointers to build a 71-63 lead and completely change the game.
“He was aggressively looking for it,” coach Tom Crean said. “That’s what we want from him, not to settle.”
Before those, Edwards was having a lackluster game. At halftime, the former 5-star recruit was shooting 3-of-9 from the field with a couple of turnovers. But after the half, the rust was shaken off and he was ready to play.
“I had to get myself together,” Edwards said. “I got my confidence back and just started playing ball.”
Until those Edwards 3s, it was a close game. For every point Georgia put up, it seemed to be answered by a bucket by the Catamounts. Going into the half, Georgia was trailing 38-37. The Bulldogs were shooting a lackluster 36.4% from the field and had more personal fouls (13) than made field goals (12). It isn’t the kind of start Crean wanted, but it wasn’t all undisciplined play. Some of it was opening-game jitters.
When the second half rolled around, guys like Edwards and Christian Brown were able to hold off on fouling out until the game was at least clinched, and Amanze Ngumezi and Rayshaun Hammons were able to stay in the entire game.
Although he may have been the most noticeable, Edwards was not the only freshman to make a considerable impact. Sahvir Wheeler put up 19 points on efficient 6-of-7 shooting to pair with three assists.
“He’s got that quickness, that strength, that heart,” Crean said of Wheeler. “It allows you to do a lot of different things.”
The Bulldogs take on The Citadel at home on Tuesday. It’s a game that will serve as another building block to an almost entirely new team.
“Chemistry is up for grabs,” Crean said. “We’re trying to blend in 10 new people. … That’s the bottom line. It’s game one tonight. It’s November 5th, and we have a lot of room to get better.”
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