MBB: Georgia vs. Mississippi State Preview

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MBB: Georgia vs. Mississippi State Preview

Georgia basketball player Justin Kier (5) during the Bulldogs’ game against Cincinnati in Athens, Ga., on Sat., Dec. 19, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Georgia basketball player Justin Kier (5) during the Bulldogs’ game against Cincinnati in Athens, Ga., on Sat., Dec. 19, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

Georgia (7-0) vs. Mississippi State (5-3)

Wednesday, December 30, at 7:00 p.m. ET

Stegeman Coliseum (1,638) in Athens, Ga.

Series History: UGA leads, 58-56

Last Meeting: MSU, 91-59, on Jan. 18, 2020

Watch: SEC Network (Mike Morgan, play-by-play; Debbie Antonelli, analyst)

Listen: Georgia Bulldog Sports Network Flagship: WSB AM 750 Atlanta; XM: 382; Internet: 972 (Scott Howard, play-by-play; Chuck Dowdle, analyst; Adam Gillespie, producer)

The Starting Five

• At 7-0, UGA is off to its best start since the Bulldogs opened the 1982-83 season – which culminated with a trip to the Final Four – with a 9-0 record.

• UGA’s eight-game winning streak, which dates back to last season, equals the sixth-best string of success in school history and is the longest since 2011-12.

• UGA has won the opening tip in each game this season and is 16-2 when doing so since the beginning of last season. UGA was 7-14 when losing the tip in 2019-20.

• Sahvir Wheeler’s three double-digit assist outings in the first three games of the season were as many as any SEC player posted in all of 2019-20.

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

The Opening Tip

Georgia opens SEC action on Wednesday night by hosting Mississippi State at Stegeman Coliseum. The Bulldogs are 7-0 on the season, one of 25 remaining undefeated Division I teams in the nation as of Monday and one of only 10 with seven or more wins.

Georgia is off to its best beginning since the Bulldogs opened their 1982-83 Final Four campaign with a 9-0 mark.

Adding in Georgia’s victory over Ole Miss in last season’s SEC Tournament gives the Bulldogs an active eight-game winning streak. That’s Georgia’s longest stretch of success game wise since securing nine consecutive Ws during the 2010-11 campaign. Calendar-wise, the Bulldogs’ winning streak spans 294 days and is the second-longest in Georgia’s 116 seasons. 

The program’s best streak both for number of victories and calendar span are the same – a 16-game stretch covering 399 days over the 1912-13 and 1913-14 seasons.

Keeping An Eye On . . . Entering Tonight’s Game:

Sahvir Wheeler is…

• 9 assists from 200 for his career 

Andrew Garcia is…

• 142 points from 1,000 for his career

• 60 rebounds for 500 for his career

Series History With State

Georgia currently leads its all-time series with Mississippi State, 58-56, including a 29-20 advantage in Athens.

In the most recent matchup last Jan. 18 in Starkville, Mississippi State shot 61.7 percent from the field – the best effort of last season against Georgia – en route to a 91-59 win over the Bulldogs.

Toumani Camara scored eight of his 10 points in the opening 7:08 of the contest to help Georgia grab a 15-14 advantage. State then went up for good on a Reggie Perry jumper at the 10:27 mark of the first half.

In the last meeting at Stegeman Coliseum on Feb. 20, 2019, Georgia rallied from a 17-point, second-half deficit to tie the game with less than 10 seconds remaining before dropping a 68-67 decision with a pretty bizarre ending.

After a Tyree Crump 3-pointer with 9.3 seconds remaining tied the game, Quinndary Weatherspoon was fouled with .5 of a second left. After missing his first free throw, Georgia was assessed a technical foul when a fan threw an object onto the floor. Weatherspoon made his next attempt and intentionally missed the third.

Scouting State

Mississippi State arrives at league play with a 5-3 record. The Bulldogs dropped their first two outings of the season to Clemson and Liberty in the Space Coast Challenge in Melbourne, Fla., before rallying to win five of their next six. State’s other setback was a double-overtime decision to Dayton.

Sophomores D.J. Stewart and Iverson Molinar provide the Bulldogs’ with one of the SEC’s best 1-2 scoring combinations. Stewart is averaging 18.3 ppg, while Molinar contributes 17.6 ppg. Tolu Smith also is scoring at a double-digit pace for State, averaging 13.9 ppg and a team-high 8.9 rpg.

Last Time Out

Georgia rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to outscore Northeastern 44-13 following the intermission en route to a 76-58 win over the Huskies on Dec. 22 and improve to 7-0 on the season.

Andrew Garcia led a quartet of Bulldogs in double digits with 15 points, while Justin Kier added a very thorough linescore of seven points, seven boards, six assists and five steals for Georgia.

Northeastern scored nine points off of Bulldog turnovers to grab a 14-3 lead just over five minutes into the game. That margin bulged to 41-26 with 2:23 left in the half.

After the Huskies scored the first bucket of the second stanza to regain a 15-point edge, Georgia used a 25-3 run over the next 11:21 to go up 57-50. A 10-0 surge moments later put the Bulldogs up by 15 with 4:02 remaining.

Georgia Basketball Unbeaten

With their day-night doubleheader sweep on Dec. 22, the Georgia basketball programs both remained undefeated this season. 

The Lady Bulldogs dispatched Appalachian State, 107-44, in the afternoon, their highest scoring output since a 107-75 win over Georgia State on Dec. 28, 2000.

Later that evening, the Bulldogs outscored Northeastern 44-13 – yes 13 – en route to a 76-58 victory.

Of 325 D-I schools with both men’s and women’s basketball programs, Georgia is one of two with both still undefeated. Michigan, with a 7-0 men’s team and a 5-0 women’s record, is the other.

Camara Named SEC POTW

Toumani Camara was tabbed the SEC’s Player of the Week by the league office in Birmingham on Dec. 21 after his 19-point, 10-rebound performance against Cincinnati two days earlier.

Camara equaled his career-best scoring output (19 points) for the third time this season en route to his second double-double. 

The sophomore from Brussels, Belgium, had 14 points and eight rebounds in the first half and keyed a 15-0 run that broke the game wide open and extended an eight-point lead to a 23-point cushion. Camara scored eight points and collected four boards in that surge.

Camara is the 29th different Bulldog to be named SEC Player of the Week a combined 39 times since the award’s inception in 1985. That list includes teammate Tye Fagan, who was the league’s first POTW this season after his double-double of 21 points (on 9-of-10 shooting from the floor) and 10 rebounds in the season opener versus Florida A&M.

New Faces In New Places

There are no less than 17 first-year Bulldogs in the matchup between UGA and MSU. Georgia’s roster includes eight newcomers, State’s features nine. Of note, neither roster includes a true senior.

Georgia’s octet newcomers features 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.

Mississippi State’s nonet includes six freshmen and three transfers – two who are redshirt sophomores and one redshirt senior.

Bulldogs Doing Work On Boards

Mississippi State and Georgia entered this week ranked No. 3 and No. 4 in the SEC in rebounding margin.

State sported a +11.88 edge on the glass in non-conference play, slightly better than Georgia’s +11.71. Those efforts ranked No. 14 and No. 15 nationally as of Monday. 

From a team perspective, Georgia also ranked among the nation’s top-25 teams in steals per game (No. 15 at 9.7) and offensive rebounds per game (No. 23 at 14.3)

Individually, Sahvir Wheeler and Justin Kier led the SEC in assists and steals, respectively. Nationally, Wheeler ranked No. 8 (7.4 apg) and Kier was at No. 18 (2.5 spg).

Wheeler Off To Historic Start

Sahvir Wheeler opened the season with a streak three consecutive point-assist double-doubles.

Wheeler has 12 points and 12 assists against Florida A&M, equaling the fourth-best single-game assist tally in 116 seasons of Georgia Basketball. It also was the most assists by a Bulldog in more than two decades…since G.G. Smith also had a dozen against Vanderbilt on Jan. 3, 1999. 

The sophomore from Houston followed the FAMU contests with 17 points and 10 assists versus North Georgia and 21 points and 10 assists against Jacksonville.

Wheeler became the first player to record three-straight point-assist double-doubles since at least the 2000-01 season. In fact, only two league players – Florida’s Chris Chiozza and Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis – have recorded back-to-back point-assist double-doubles in the last five seasons. The last instance of three-straight point-assist double-doubles found was a stretch by Mississippi State’s Chuck Evans during the 1992-93 season.

Wheeler is believed to be the first Georgia player with back-to-back double-figure assist tallies ever. Box scores dating back through 1969-70 did not find anyone who had done so. There were a couple of close calls, most notably Gino Gianfrancesco – who owns three of the top-four single-game assist efforts in school history – in a three-game span covering the 1971-72 and 1972-73 seasons.

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