MBB: UGA Opens with Columbus State Today

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MBB: UGA Opens with Columbus State Today

Tom Crean
Tom Crean

Georgia (0-0) vs. Columbus State (0-0)

Wednesday, November 25, at 5:00 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; XM Channel 382; Internet Channel 972 (Scott Howard, play-by-play; Chuck Dowdle, analyst; Adam Gillespie, producer)

The Starting 5…

• Georgia plays its season opener at the latest point in a quarter-century, since beginning the 1995-97 campaign on Nov. 27, 1995 against Ga. Southern.

• The Bulldogs have com-piled an 82-33 all-time record in season openers, including a 36-6 mark when starting the season at Stegeman Coliseum.

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

• Georgia Basketball has broken its all-time total attendance record at Stegeman Colisuem during each of Tom Crean’s first two seasons in Athens.

• 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).

The Opening Tip

Georgia Basketball will being its Thanksgiving celebration a day early on Wednesday. The Bulldogs will return to the court to host Columbus State in their 2020-21 season opener, with a 5:00 p.m. tip time slated at Stegeman Coliseum.

Series History With Columbus State

Georgia and Columbus State will be meeting for the first time in just under three decades.

The Bulldogs won both previous meetings with the Cougars – an 86-70 decision on Dec. 11, 1991 and a 108-75 victory on Dec. 27, 1986.

In the most recent matchup, Litterial Green poured in 34 points in 34 minutes of action to lead Georgia. The Bulldogs quickly expanded a seven-point halftime lead and cruised most of the rest of the way. 

Led by 18-point outputs from Willie Anderson and Milt Blakley, five six Bulldogs notched double-figure scoring outputs in the 33-point victory in 1986. Georgia’s 108-point outburst stands as the 12th-highest effort in program history.

A Bunch of New Faces In New Places

Georgia’s roster features eight first-year players with the Bulldogs, while Columbus State will have 11 players making their debut as Cougars.

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 Columbus State, the Cougars added six junior college transfers, two freshmen and three NCAA transfers (one each from DI, DII and DIII.

Up Next: We Hope To Play Sunday

Georgia’s second game of the season – originally schedule to be against Gardner-Webb on Sunday afternoon – was cancelled on Monday. The decision was made after consultation with UGA Athletic Association medical personnel.

The cancellation followed a positive COVID-19 test within the Gardner-Webb program. Georgia is currently seeking a replacement opponent for Sunday’s game, which was scheduled to tipoff at 2:00 p.m. and be televised on the SEC Network.

“When learned mid-morning about Gardner-Webb’s situation, we immediately started working on what our next steps can be,” head coach Tom Crean said. “We are currently in that process and are hopeful we will be able to find another opponent for Sunday. We wish Gardner-Webb the best through this period and the season.”. 

Bulldogs In Season Openers

Georgia has compiled an 82-33 record in opening contests of the Bulldogs’ 115 seasons of basketball. That includes an even more impressive 36-6 mark in openers at Stegeman Coliseum.

Georgia’s most significant win in an opener at the Coliseum also was its first. In the Bulldogs’ initial opener in their current arena on Dec. 3 1964, UGA bested No. 13 North Carolina, 64-61.

The Bulldogs are 2-0 in openers under current head coach Tom Crean. 

Two years ago, Georgia raced to a 110-76 victory over Savannah State, the 11th-most points by the Bulldogs ever and their highest scoring output in the 2000s. 

Last season on Nov. 5, Anthony Edwards and Sahvir Wheeler poured in 24 and 19 points, respectively, to lead Georgia in a 91-72 win over Western Carolina. 

Edwards’ tally was the second-most ever by a Bulldog in their debut…and the most since Dominique Wilkins put up 26 points versus Troy on Nov. 20, 1979. Wheeler’s effort matched the third-best mark ever by a Georgia freshman playing their first collegiate contest. He equaled Terry Fair’s 19 points also established against Troy in 1979.

Since freshmen became eligible to compete in basketball beginning with the 1972-73 season, 23 Bulldogs have posted double figures in the scoring column during their first collegiate contest at UGA.

Crean Strong In Season Openers

Tom Crean is 19-1 all-time in season openers as a head coach. Crean was 8-1 at Marquette from 1999-2008 and was a perfect 9-0 at Indiana from 2008-17 and has won both of his initial outings at Georgia.

The biggest season-opening victory for a Crean-coached team was three years ago when the No. 11-ranked Hoosiers defeated No. 3 Kansas, 103-99, in overtime at the Armed Forces Challenge in Honolulu.

The Hoosiers raced to an 8-1 start that season – including a second signature victory in November over eventual 2017 NCAA Champion North Carolina – before injuries decimated Indiana’s roster.

Latest Opener In A While

Last season, the Bulldogs christened their season on Nov. 5, the earliest opening contest ever in Georgia’s 115 seasons of basketball. The previous date for an initial outing was when UGA began the 2013-14 campaign on Nov. 8 with a 72-52 win over Wofford.

With the 2020-21 campaign delayed due to COVID-19, the Bulldogs’ Nov. 25 date against Columbus State is their latest opener in more than a quarter century. Georgia began the 1995-96 season with an 88-44 win over Georgia Southern in Tubby Smith’s first game as the Bulldogs’ head coach.

That season turned out quite well. Led by seniors Shandon Anderson, Terrell Bell, Pertha Robinson and Carlos Strong, the Bulldogs compiled a 21-10 record and reached the “Sweet 16” round of the NCAA Tournament before suffering a heart-break, overtime loss to No. 15 Syracuse in the West Regional.

Top-Ranked JUCOs Join Dogs

Each of Georgia’s junior college recruits were ranked among the top-15 prospects nationally by 247Sports.com. Mikal Starks was listed at No. 9, Tyron McMillan was tabbed No. 11 and Jonathan Ned came in at No. 15. 

Ned and Starks come from dramatically different hometowns but the same junior college – Eastern Florida State. Ned is from Northern California, while Starks hails from South Florida. Together, they helped EFSC’s Titans win 55 games over two seasons and reach the “Elite Eight” round of the 2019 NJCAA Tournament. 

McMillan, who played AAU basketball with Sahvir Wheeler, earned All-Region honors in his one season at Kilgore College in Texas after averaging 10.4 ppg and 5.7 rpg.

A Summer Unlike Any Other

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Bulldogs’ season to end prematurely on March 12 and began a period where Tom Crean was away from on-court coaching for more than four months. Georgia returned to workouts on July 20 as the Bulldogs’ staff began meshing together six returnees and eight newcomers.

“The only guy will a full year of college basketball with us in the program is Tye Fagan,” Crean said. “That’s tough. That’s really tough because the kids who are sophomores didn’t get the full spring. And when the three grad transfers and Tyron McMillan got to campus, that was the first time we’d personally met them and talked to them not on phone, FaceTime or zoom.

“There was nothing normal about this summer,” Crean added. “There was nothing even remotely close to normal as to how you would build your team.”

Edwards Drafted No. 1 Overall

Anthony Edwards was chosen by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft on Nov. 18. Edwards became the Bulldogs’ highest draft pick ever, topping Dominique Wilkins, who was selected No. 3 overall in 1982.

“This is an incredibly special night for an incredibly special young man,” head coach Tom Crean said. “I know the time and the effort he’s put into getting to this point. He’s earned it. He works extremely hard. He’s dedicated to getting better.”

Edwards is the 39th Bulldog to be selected in the NBA Draft and the eighth first-rounder. He was the first lottery pick since Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was chosen with the No. 8 pick in 2013.

“This is a big-time moment for this program,” Crean said. “When you’re trying to build on what others have done here before, you’ve got to have moments that help establish what you want your program to be. I think this is something that everyone who has ever been a part of Georgia Basketball can be proud of. It also shows that you can come to Georgia, and in Anthony’s case come to Georgia and stay close to home, and you can achieve all of your dreams. That’s really, really important for us.”

Edwards was the nation’s top-scoring freshman, averaging 19.1 ppg for the Bulldogs. He scored 610 points, the 10th-most ever by an SEC freshman and the seventh-highest effort by a Bulldog in a single season. 

Edwards was named SEC Freshman of the Year by both league coaches and the Associated Press and was tabbed SEC Freshman of the Week a school-record four times.

Wheeler Sets Assist Record 

Sahvir Wheeler wrapped up his freshman season by equaling his career high with eight assists against Ole Miss at the SEC Tournament. In the process, he also broke Georgia’s freshman assists record.

Wheeler distributed 139 passes-to-points during the 2019-20 campaign, breaking the previous mark by Litterial Green as outlined below.

 Wheeler’s tally also equaled Willie Anderson for the 14th-most ever by a Bulldog in a single season.

UGA Freshman Assist Leaders 

Rk.          Player     Season   Tot.

1.             Sahvir Wheeler     2019-20  139

                2.             Litterial Green        1988-89  133

                3.             Dustin Ware           2008-09  108

                4.             Moses White          1999-00  105

                5.             Rashad Wright       2000-01  103

Crean Impressed With Teamwork

Tom Crean has been impressed with the ability his current roster has shown to form a bond during the summer and fall.

“I like their camaraderie,” Crean said. “I like their spirit. We’ve worked very hard. There’s guys who are in the gym at different times, whether it’s later at night or early in the morning. There are guys who are very, very hungry.

“In addition to all that, they’ve done a good job in the weight room,” Crean continued. “They’ve done a good job when we worked out outside. They’ve pushed each other. They’ve competed. There is a spirit about them, and they’re improving. A lot of new guys are learning to come together in a very, very different situation, and that’s what we’ve focused on, bridging that every day.”

Bulldogs Speak Out On Issues

In addition to the pandemic, social issues dominated the landscape for much of the summer. Several Georgia basketball players, led by Tye Fagan and Sahvir Wheeler, chose to utilize their platform and voice to speak toward needed changes to create a better and more respectful society in general.

Fagan took part in a march in Thomaston, Ga., where he led Upson-Lee High School to back-to-back state titles in 2017 and 2018.

“It’s bigger than basketball, it’s bigger than me,” Fagan said. “A lot of people have lost their lives, a lot of people are upset. A lot of my people are upset and they feel a lot of different ways. I can’t blame them because I feel the same way, seeing guys suffer from police brutality or racism or bigotry or whatever you want to call it. Black people have been suffering a lot over the past few months. It’s been going on forever but especially over the past few months.”

Wheeler discussed a wide variety of topics in an interview with DawgNation.com.

“One of the most important things is this is a time when the country has to pivot, and it has put a magnifying glass on our actions, our deeds and our approach with others in relationships in general,” Wheeler said. “It has come to question ourselves: What are we willing to tolerate? What is the catalyst of change? How are we looking upon other people from different walks of life, and how we can take a step forward in progression so everyone can be equal?”

Bulldogs Better In Tight Games 

Georgia was 5-3 in contests decided by four points or less last season, with tight wins over Georgia Tech (72-68), Chaminade (80-77), SMU (87-85), No. 9 Memphis (65-62) and Vanderbilt (80-78) and close setbacks against Missouri (72-69), Alabama (105-102) and South Carolina (94-90 in OT).

That was a dramatic difference from Tom Crean’s first season in Athens when the Bulldogs were 0-6 in such outings, with all six setbacks coming to NCAA Tournament teams.

Ronnie Hogue To Be Honored

Ronnie Hogue, the first Black men’s basketball scholarship student-athlete at the University of Georgia, will be honored with a commemorative sticker on the Stegeman Coliseum basket supports during the 2020-21 season. Hogue passed away in Setpember at the age of 69.

A native of Washington, D.C., Hogue arrived in Athens in the fall of 1969 and became one of the best players of his time, or any other era of Bulldog basketball.

Two years before freshmen became eligible under NCAA rules, Hogue averaged 19.1 points per game on UGA’s freshman squad. He burst upon the scene the following year when, playing largely out of position as a forward, he averaged 16.2 points per game and was named to the SEC’s All-Sophomore team.

The following year, 1972, was a breakout season for Hogue as he upped his scoring average to 20.5 points per game. In the season’s fifth game, on December 20, 1971, he exploded for a career-high 46 points against LSU, the most ever by a Bulldog in Stegeman Coliseum and second-highest single-game tally in school history. Perhaps more impressive than the scoring total was the fact that Hogue connected on 20-of-23 shots from the floor en route to that output. Hogue was named first-team All-SEC by league coaches that season while also garnering second-team honors from the AP and UPI. As a senior, Hogue averaged 16.5 points per game.

Hogue finished his Georgia career with 1,367 points in just three seasons. At the time, that ranked second among UGA’s all-time scoring leaders.

Hogue was drafted by the Washington Bullets in the seventh round of the 1973 NBA Draft.

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