ATHENS — Georgia basketball is looking to bounce back and move forward with much-needed momentum against SMU on Friday night.
The Bulldogs (6-3) tip off against the Mustangs (8-1) at 7 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum looking to shake off a 20-point road loss at Arizona State in their previous outing.
Georgia star Anthony Edwards leads all freshmen across the nation with 19.8 points per game and is tied for the nation’s lead with 2.22 steals per game.
Edwards, however, may be hitting the so-called “Freshman Wall” less than 10 games into the season.
Crean confirmed the 6-foot-5 projected NBA lottery pick out of Atlanta has been dealing with “lower body stuff.” Crean said it’s typical for freshmen, and the Bulldogs are loaded in that area with nine of their rostered players just out of high school.
“You’re not sure what wind they’re on; are they on the second wind, the third wind or are they in the midst of one of them?” Crean said. “It’s hard. It’s a process because they play so much basketball in the summer. In the fall, you know the season starts, and we have so much to learn.
“You try to really balance that and have a pulse of them on a daily basis.”
Freshman Sahvir Wheeler, who leads the team with 41 assists, said the Bulldogs are still growing.
“Every game is not going to be a game where our chemistry is just off the chain, we’re going to have our bumps and bruises,” Wheeler said. “There’s going to be some humps in the road because we’re younger, but definitely, off the court nothing has changed. Guys are still having fun, still talking to each other and on the court.
“When we’re playing our best, guys are lively, we’re loose, having fun. Playing for each other you can really tell the love and passion is there and we’re definitely seeing a trend up on the chemistry side.”
SMU will provide a stiff test for Edwards’ and Crean’s young basketball team.
The Mustangs rank among the nation’s top 50 teams in free-throw percentage (No. 11, .791), rebounding margin (+8.0) and field goal percentage defense (.386).
Crean’s best teams at Indiana had excellent movement and shooting prowess, but this Georgia team has sputtered in those areas.
“[SMU] is a veteran defense, and it’s a physical defense, (and) it’s a switching defense, and we haven’t seen a defense that switches the way SMU does,” Crean said. “Those cause problems, so if we come down and are stagnant, and we’re not moving, then that plays right into [SMU’s] hands.
“We’ve got to do a great job screening, cutting, moving without the ball, getting the ball reversed, being ready to shoot and being ready to attack when they get it on the glass.”