ATHENS — Georgia basketball will have the best player on the floor in most every game it plays.
But the Bulldogs know they can’t put it all on Anthony Edwards in every game, even if the 6-foot-5 Atlanta products leads all freshman in the nation with 19.4 points per game.
Georgia (7-3) plays host to Georgia Southern (8-4) at 7 p.m. on Monday in Stegeman Coliseum looking to run its home record to 7-0 this season.
The Bulldogs took a big step in evolving with their 87-85 double-overtime win over SMU on Friday night. Edwards, a projected NBA lottery pick, barely touched the ball in the overtime periods.
Instead, it was fellow freshman Sahvir Wheeler delivering the game-tying basket at he end of the first overtime, and the game-winning basket in the second OT.
The Mustangs played a switching style of defense that kept Edwards bottled up in the first half, as he began the game just 1-of-5 shooting in the first half with three turnovers.
Edwards heated up in the second half, finishing with 16 points and a key blocked shot in the final seconds of regulation and rebound in overtime.
But as Crean explained, Edwards is more comfortable relying on Wheeler to move the ball.
“Anthony is going to be very comfortable with that because he knows Sahvir delivers the ball,” Crean said. “And where Anthony has grown, and has got to continue to grow — every one of the guys has got to continue to get better, top to bottom — but Anthony moves better without the ball when he’s down in the corner swinging, especially when Sahvir is in the game.”
Crean said the movement away from the ball was poor in Georgia’s embarrassing 79-59 road loss at Arizona Sate earlier this month.
The Bulldogs were just 2-of-24 shooing beyond the 3-point arc against the Sun Devils — Edwards 0 for 5 — and the team was 11 of 20 from the free-throw line.
Crean said improved moment and the home court made a difference in the win over the Mustangs, who dropped to 8-2 with the loss last Friday.
Georgia improved to 3-0 in games decided by 4 points or less this season after going 0-6 in those games last season.
“We’ve got some upperclassmen that haven’t won games like that, it’s been a long time since Georgia won a game like that,” Crean said. “It’s a huge win, because we had to learn how to believe. And that’s not a corny statement.
“You have to earn your belief. So you have to get stops, make big plays, get rebounds.”
And sometimes, you have to get those plays in the clutch from someone other than Edwards.