MBB: Georgia Opens With Florida A&M Today

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MBB: Georgia Opens With Florida A&M Today

Tom Crean
Tom Crean

Georgia (0-0) vs. Florida A&M (0-1)

Sunday, November 29, at 2:00 p.m. ET

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

Watch: SEC Network (Kevin Fitzgerald, play-by-play; Daymeon Fishback, 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 nearly three decades, since opening the 1992-93 season at No. 3 Kansas on Dec. 1.

• The Bulldogs have compiled 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 looks to tip off its 2020-21 on Sunday when the Bulldogs host Florida A&M at Stegeman Coliseum in a 2:00 p.m. matinee. The game is set to be televised on the SEC Network.

Georgia was scheduled to christen its season last Wednesday versus Columbus State; however, that contest was canceled just hours before tipoff due to COVID-19 issues with the Cougars’ traveling party.

Series History With The Rattlers

Georgia owns a 3-0 advantage in all-time meetings with Florida A&M, with early-season wins in 2003, 2005 and 2012.

Most recently, Nemi Djurisic scored a career-high 21 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 11 to lead the Bulldogs to an 82-73 win on Dec. 29, 2012. Georgia built a 42-24 lead with 4:07 left in the first half and led by double-digits most of the rest of the way.

The Bulldogs and Rattlers also met 15 years ago to the day on Nov. 29, 2005, with Georgia securing a decisive 95-74 victory. Levi Stukes’ game-high 20 points led a quartet of Bulldogs in double figures as Georgia raced to a 55-30 halftime lead and cruised thereafter.

Scouting Florida A&M

Florida A&M’s 2020-21 roster features eight returning letterwinners – including four starters – and 10 newcomers. The Rattlers, who were 12-15 last season, opened their campaign with a 65-56 loss at Florida Gulf Coast last Wednesday.

MJ Randolph, the 2018 MEAC Rookie of the Year, averaged 13.0 points and 5.8 rebounds a year. The other starers back for the Rattlers are Evins Desir (9.2 ppg), DJ Jones (7.1 ppg) and Kamron Reaves (5.9 ppg).

A Bunch of New Faces In New Places

Georgia’s roster features eight first-year Bulldogs, while Florida A&M has 10 new Rattlers.

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 Florida A&M, the newcomers include four freshmen, five junior college transfers (three sophomores and two juniors) and a transfer from Alaska-Anchorage.

Hoops Scheduling 2020 Style

Georgia hopes to play its first game of the season against an opponent that wasn’t even on the Bulldogs’ schedule six days ago.

As of last Monday, Sunday’s 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 Runnin’ Bulldogs’ 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.

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 four 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. 29 date against Florida A&M is their latest opener in nearly three decades. 

Georgia began the 1992-93 season on Dec. 1 with a trip to Allen Fieldhouse to face No. 3 Kansas. The Jayhawks secured a 76-65 win.

That contest was the first of a “home-and-home” series between UGA and KU. The quote marks are to emphasize that Kansas’ return on that contract was not to Athens. Georgia head coach Hugh Durham ventured to Lawrence and then had the Jayhawks return game in Atlanta for the first-ever basketball event at now-demolished Georgia Dome. That UGA-KU outing was part of the Kuppenheimer Classic, which also featured Georgia Tech hosting Louisville.

Dogs’ Roster Features Winners

Georgia’s roster features six Bulldogs who won high school state championships – Christian Brown, Tye Fagan, P.J. Horne, Josh Taylor, Jaykwon Walton and Sahvir Wheeler. 

In fact, Fagan, Horne and Wheeler all won a pair of state titles, giving that sextet a combined nine championship rings.

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. 

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