ATHENS — One year older and wiser, Georgia basketball point guard Sahvir Wheeler feels that much better off entering into the SEC season.
“Just being that floor general on the court, (and) just being that guy who is talking and constantly spreading information,” said Wheeler, who set a school record for freshman assists last season. “Being the guy who makes the game easier for my teammates. I need to put them in the best situations where they can be successful
Wheeler’s Bulldogs (7-0) battle Mississippi State (5-3) at 7 p.m. (TV: SEC Network) on Wednesday in Stegeman Coliseum.
Georgia is off to its best start since the 1982-83 Final Four season despite having eight newcomers that have had to meld together quickly.
Wheeler said much as been learned in the “preseason” games, which includes a win over a traditionally tough Cincinnati program.
“I learned is that we can win in a variety of ways,” Wheeler said. “We can win games when we are down. We can win games when we are down and keep that consistent lead. We do not get too high or too low, we are even-keeled. I think that shows our growth and maturity not only with the guys that we brought in but the guys that came back from last year.
“We look at it as a new season—a time where we can compete with our fellow SEC members and hopefully make some noise this year.”
Mississippi State brings a challenge with its size and rebounding prowess. The Maroon Bulldogs look to start 6-foot-11, 255-pound Abdul Ado and 6-10, 245 Tolu Smith on their front line, while UGA answers in the paint with Virginia Tech transfer P.J. Horne (6-6, 230) and Toumani Camara (6-8, 22).
State posted a plus 11.88 advantage over opponents in rebounding in the non-conference games.
“I think the physicality of Mississippi State and their inside play will be unlike anything we’ve seen,” UGA coach Tom Crean said. “Their guards, D.J. Stewart and Iverson Molinar can really score.
“(But) they are really good upfront so we’ve got to do a good job on the glass.”
Mississippi State has had Georgia’s number of late with three straight wins, including the largest margin in series history (91-59) the most recent time the teams met (Jan. 18 2020).
The Maroon Bulldogs, led by Coach Ben Howland, are coming off back-to-back 10-win SEC seasons for the first time since 1994-95 and 1995-96.