UPDATE: The SEC announced on Thursday (March 12) the remainder of the league tournament has been canceled amid concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak.
NASHVILLE — Georgia basketball, it turned out, is much more than a one-man team.
The Bulldogs (16-16) proved that on Wednesday night with their 81-62 runaway win over Ole Miss (15-17) in the opening game of the SEC basketball tournament at Bridgestone Arena.
SEC Freshman of the Year Anthony Edwards tied his season low with just 6 points on 2-of-13 shooting.
And yet, Georgia never appeared in jeopardy of losing to a team that beat them convincingly earlier this season in Athens.
In fact, it was UGA’s most-lopsided SEC win of the season.
The Bulldogs reward is a 3:25 p.m. (EDT) scheduled meeting with No. 5- tourney seed Florida (19-12), a team that has already beaten them twice this season.
Georgia has proven it can play good basketball against the Gators, leading by 22 in Gainesville before succumbing to a comeback, and going up double-digits in their regular-season home finale before Florida stormed back.
The formula was the same for success then as it was against Ole Miss.
“The ball moved, our cutting was very good, we got to the offensive glass early,” Crean said. “They were ready to roll, and they were ready to play against a team that we’ve had trouble with.”
And Edwards was a part of it, playing every minute and contributing significantly even though his shot wasn’t falling.
“Anthony did a lot in the game that impacted the game and the win,” Crean said. “The offensive misses, they are just part of it.
“There are so many positives in the game, we don’t win the game without him.”
Edwards, one of five finalists for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award, had 6 rebounds, 4 assists and a handful of deflections that led to some of the 15 turnovers Ole Miss committed.
“Ole Miss did a great job of defending Ant, but you look at the stat sheet, we still were plus-18 with him on the court,” said Jordan Harris, who scored a season-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
“ I think he still played great, he just didn’t hit a lot of shots. But he was a great teammate, and he still made a lot of good plays down the stretch.”
Rayshaun Hammonds, who scored 22 points, pulled down 11 rebounds, dished out 4 assists and made 2 steals in what was arguably his best all-around performance of the year, said there was a team mindset.
“The team played well, everyone was looking for each other, and we just tried to stay together,” Hammonds said. “It doesn’t matter who is scoring on our team, we’re just trying to win.”
Florida has that sort of team, too, with four players averaging double figures in scoring.
Forward Keyontae Johnson has proven a handful for UGA in the previous two meetings.
The 6-foot-7 forward scored 15 points and pulled down 7 rebounds in the first meeting. Johnson posted a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds in the meeting last week in Athens, a 68-54 Florida win.
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