ATHENS — Georgia basketball is off and running, tipping off its season with an 85-75 victory over Florida A&M on Sunday at Stegeman Coliseum.
The Bulldogs (1-0) didn’t even know they would be playing the Rattlers (0-2) a week ago, dialing up the MEAC school last Tuesday up after Gardner-Webb canceled on account of COVID-19 issues.
One day later, Georgia’s previously scheduled season-opening game with Columbus State on Wednesday was canceled three hours before tip on account of the opponents’ COVID-19 issues.
Georgia junior Tye Fagan, senior newcomer Andrew Garcia, and sophomore Sahvir Wheeler made sure the wait was worth it before the socially-distanced capacity crowd of 1,638.
Fagan and Wheeler recorded double-doubles, Fagan with 21 points and 10 rebounds, Wheeler with 12 points and a career-high 12 assists. Garcia, a transfer from Stoey Brook, scored a game-high 22 points.
The Bulldogs, coming off a 16-16 season, feature eight newcomers this season and took time to settle in. Georgia held a slim 38-37 lead at the half over the Rattlers before adjusting.
It was fair to say that former Bulldog Anthony Edwards, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, was missed.
“We came out in the first half, and we rushed a few shots and passed up a few good shots,” Fagan said. “Second half we tried to take better shots and be more efficient. I was just trying to get out and run, and Sahvir was able to find me.”
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Fagan scored seven of the first eight field goals for the Bulldogs in the second half as Georgia pulled away, leading by as many as 16 points with 1:30 left.
Coach Tom Crean indicated it was a promising start, but he made it clear there’s plenty of room for improvement.
“I wasn’t concerned about the offense because I knew if we made stops we could get out and run,” Crean said. “But it’s got to get faster.”
The Bulldogs are trying to schedule a Wednesday night game in Stegeman Coliseum and have another scheduled home game at 7 p.m. on Friday with Jacksonville.