MBB: North Georgia Visits Athens Tonight

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MBB: North Georgia Visits Athens Tonight

Georgia basketball player Justin Kier (5) during the Bulldogs’ home opener against Florida A&M in Athens, Ga., at Stegeman Coliseum on Sun., Nov. 29, 2020. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith)

Georgia (1-0) vs. North Georgia (0-1)

Wednesday, December 2, at 7:00 p.m. ET

Stegeman Coliseum (10,523) in Athens, Ga.

Watch: SEC Network + (Scott Howard, play-by-play; Chuck Dowdle, analyst)

Listen: Georgia Bulldog Sports Network Flagship: WSB AM 750 Atlanta; (Scott Howard, play-by-play; Chuck Dowdle, analyst; Adam Gillespie, producer)

The Starting 5…

• Tye Fagan became the 28th UGA Bulldog to earn SEC Player of the Week honors (a combined 38 times) since the award’s inception in 1985..

• With the win over FAMU, improved to 84-33 all-time record in season openers, including a 37-6 mark when starting the season at Stegeman Coliseum..

• T. Fagan and S. Wheeler became the first UGA teammates to have double-doubles in the same game since N. Claxton and D. Ogbeide vs. S.C. on 3/9/19.

• UGA’s roster features eight newcomers with representative in every class – two freshmen, a sophomore, two juniors and a trio of graduate transfers.

• Six different Bulldogs combined to win a total of nine state championship at their high schools – Brown, Fagan (2), Horne (2), Taylor, Walton and Wheeler (2).

A transcript of the presser is HERE

The Opening Tip

Georgia returns to action on Wednesday evening when the Bulldogs host North Georgia’s Nighthawks at Stegeman Coliseum at 7:00 p.m.

Georgia opened the season last Sunday with an 87-75 win over Florida A&M behind a game-high 22 points from graduate transfer Andrew Garcia and a pair of double-double outings from Tye Fagan (21 points, 10 boards) and Sahvir Wheeler (12 points, 12 assists).

Although this is just Georgia’s second game of the season, North Georgia is the fifth opponent scheduled to play the Bulldogs. Last Wednesday’s slated season opener against Columbus State was cancelled just hours prior to tipoff. Florida A&M actually became the Nov. 29 opponent five days before the game. The Bulldogs were originally scheduled to play Gardner-Webb that day but the game was cancelled on Nov. 23 due to COVID issues within the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ roster.

The North Georgia game – announced on Monday roughly 54-and-a-half hours before tipoff – was added to the schedule to replace the Columbus State contest.

“Series” History With North Georgia

The “series” history between UGA and UNG is an unofficial one. Tonight’s game will mark the second meeting between Georgia and North Georgia on the hardwood…but the first official contest according to UGA’s records book.

Previously, the Bulldogs bested UNG, 87-53, in a preseason exhibition on Nov. 6, 2009.

Travis Leslie scored 21 points to lead a quartet of Georgia players in double digits. Trey Thompkins added 11 points and Ebuka Anyaorah and Drazen Zlovaric chipped in 10 points apiece. 

In all, 12 of the 13 Bulldogs who saw game action scored.

The Bulldogs needed less than six minutes to build a double-digit edge. Georgia expanded that  advantage to 20 points by the 4:21 mark of the first half. The Bulldogs led 45-20 at the intermission and outscored North Georgia 42-33 in the second stanza.

Scouting The Nighthawks

North Georgia returns four letterwinners from last season’s team which finished 14-15 overall and 9-11 in Peach Belt Conference play. 

Zach Brown is the Nighthawks’ leading returning scorer at 8.2 ppg. Josh Cotrell and Darnell Snyers were regular starters for UNG last season, getting the nod for 28 and 18 contests, respectively. 

The Nighthawks opened their 2020-21 season a week ago with a 79-48 loss to Mercer. Snyers led three players in double figures for North Georgia with 11 points, while Brown and Eric Jones chipped in 10 each. Mercer led by just 13 points at halftime before outscoring the Nighthawks 43-19 the rest of the way.

New Faces In New Places

Georgia’s roster features eight first-year Bulldogs, while North Georgia brings 11 new Nighthawks to Athens.

Georgia’s octet newcomers feature a representative of every class – freshmen K.D. Johnson and Josh Taylor, sophomore Tyron McMillan, juniors Jonathan Ned and Mikal Starks; and graduate transfer seniors Andrew Garcia, P.J. Horne and Justin Kier.

For North Georgia, the newcomers include six freshmen (one of the redshirt variety), two sophomore tranfers and two junior transfers.

That Nighthawk Looks Familiar

It’s hard to recognized people with masks on these days but if you have a sneaking suspicion that someone on the North Georgia bench looks familiar, you may be correct.

Jordan McGruder is a graduate assistant coach with the Nighthawks. He spent the previous two seasons as student manager for Georgia Basketball. A native of Sharsburg, Ga., McGruder graduated from UGA last spring with his degree in Sport Management.

Fagan Named SEC POTW

Tye Fagan was named the SEC Player of the Week on Monday by the league office in Birmingham, Ala., a day after the best outing of his collegiate career against Florida A&M.

Fagan posted career-high tallies of 21 points and 10 rebounds en route to his first career double-double. He connected on 9-of-10 shots from the field against the Rattlers and played a major role in creating distance on the scoreboard. Fagan scored eight points in a span of 76 seconds as Georgia expanded a two-point lead (49-47) to 10 (59-49). 

“I don’t take credit for that,” Fagan said when asked about his performance after the game. “A lot of that has to do with Sahvir (Wheeler). He is a great ball-handler, and he finds guys. I’m pretty sure he had 12 assists, so that is what I mean how he found guys. I give a lot of credit to my teammates and coaches to put me in the right places.”

Wheeler also had his first double-double as a Bulldog against Florida A&M, with 12 points and 12 assists.

Fagan’s previous highs were 15 points and six rebounds. For his career, Fagan has now recorded four double-digit scoring outputs. In those games, he has connected on an almost unfathomable 83.9 percent (26-of-31) of his field goal attempts.

Fagan is the 28th different Bulldog to be named SEC Player of the Week since the award’s inception in 1985. Those players have combined to earn 38 POTW certificates.

The Nomination Wasn’t Automatic

The decision to nominate Fagan for SEC Player of the Week required some thought.

Graduate transfer Andrew Garcia also had an outstanding – and efficient – game against the Rattlers. The Bergenfield, N.J., native scored a game-high 22 points in just 23 minutes of action.

Garcia connected on 6-of-8 shots from the field and converted on 10-of-11 trips to the free-throw line in his first outing for UGA.

Sahvir Continues Serving It Up

After breaking Georgia’s freshman assist record in 2019-20, Sahvir Wheeler picked up right where he left off with 12 assists against Florida A&M in the season opener.

Wheeler’s effort represented the fourth-best single-game assist tally in 116 seasons of basketball for the Bulldogs. It also was the most by a Bulldog in more than two decades…since G.G. Smith distributed a dozen assists against Vanderbilt on Jan. 3, 1999.

Hoops Scheduling 2020 Style

Georgia will plays its second game of the season against an opponent that wasn’t even on the Bulldogs’ schedule three days ago.

As of last Monday (Nov. 23), UGA’s Nov. 29 game was scheduled to be against Gardner-Webb. The decision was made to cancel that contest after consultation with UGA Athletic Association medical personnel due to COVID-19 issues within the GWU roster.

About 24 hours later, Georgia announced that Florida A&M would replace Gardner-Webb on Sunday.

During a Zoom session with media on Tuesday, head coach Tom Crean said: “Well in a nut shell, this came up yesterday morning and we already had some ideas of potential replacements for the first couple of weeks so we really started with that. That becomes the most important thing…some were available, most weren’t available to be honest with you, but Florida A&M was the one that had the most opportunity to say yes and the best opportunity to say yes, in the shortest amount of time, and the shortest distance involved. 

“It’s a surreal experience all around, and you just have to be able to adjust,” Crean continued. “You have to be flexible. You have to plan ahead. I give (Assistant Athletics Director) John Bateman and (Director of Player Development) Brian Fish a lot of credit with this and the work they did to put this together. In all likelihood, we’ll have to do it again. It’s just a part of it right now.”

Less than 24 hours after that, Crean’s comments seemed prophetic when Wednesday’s season opener against Columbus State was canceled just hours before it was slated to tip off. That outing was scrapped when COVID-19 tests returned positive results within the Cougars’ traveling party.

On Nov. 30, the Columbus State game was replaced with the North Georgia contest on Dec. 2.

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