ATHENS — Georgia basketball returns to the court for its first true test of the season, rival Georgia Tech.
The Bulldogs (3-0) lead the SEC with 95.3 points per game. Fact is, Coach Tom Crean’s very young team has yet to be challenged in wins over Western Carolina (91-72), The Citadel (95-86) and Delaware State (100-66).
The Yellow Jackets — 2-0 with a season-opening 82-81 overtime win at North Carolina State — figure to provide a litmus test of sorts.
Indeed, Georgia Tech spelled it out in its game notes this week:
- Michael Devoe ranks fourth in the ACC in scoring average (22.0 ppg), first in three-point field goal percentage (.750) and fourth in overall field goal percentage (.609).
- Khalid Moore leads the ACC in steals (4.5 per game), while Georgia Tech is third as a team (8.5 per game).
- James Banks III leads the ACC in blocked shots (5.5 per game), while Tech also leads that category as a team (9.5 per game). Banks also is third in rebound average (10.0).
“Coach Crean is one of the best coaches in the country, he’s won a lot of games,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said (video). “We’re going to have to play our ‘A’ game if we’re going to have a chance to win the game.”
Crean has been impressed with what he has seen from the Yellow Jackets, so far.
“I’m not putting words in [head coach Josh Pastner’s] mouth, but [it’s] probably the best team I’ve seen that he has had,” Crean said. “They’re very deep. They shoot the ball so much better than they did a year ago.
“They can play different ways, and they can keep the speed of the game going, and I think they do a really good job. Defensively, they do a tremendous job with their ball screen defense. They’re getting back in transition well. They’ve got length, so they can mix man and zone, which they do.”
Georgia 6-foot-5 freshman Anthony Edwards leads the Bulldogs with 19.7 points per game, while Rayshaun Hammonds is scoring 14.7 per game and pulling down an SEC-high 11.7 rebounds.
It will take the best from both against a Georgia Tech team that has more size and talent than the first three teams Georgia has faced combined.
The Bulldogs have won four straight in the rivalry, claiming a 70-59 win a McCamish Pavilion last season behind Nicolas Claxton’s 13 points and 13 rebounds.
There weren’t many highlights for Georgia basketball in Crean’s first season, but beating Georgia Tech and keeping the win streak alive in the rivalry was one of them.
“It means a lot to this program,” said UGA senior guard Tyree Crump, who leads the team in 3-point shots made. “It about makes me shed tears, because thats how much passion I have for this game. It’s a really big game.
Crump said 10 new players on the Bulldogs’ roster this season have likely been able to pick up on the importance of the rivalry by the way the team has prepared for it.
“You can tell them, but they’ve got to feel you — they’ve got to feel your energy in practice,” Crump said. “You can say this is a big game, but in practice they have to feel it and understand that this man isn’t playing, this is a big game.”
Crean said he figured out the importance of the rivalry with last year’s trip to Atlanta.
“I think last year getting a dose of it inside of Atlanta inside of their arena was really good for us, and really good for me to get a feel for how important it is to people,” Crean said. “And I just think it’s one of those deals that no matter where you’re at your season, no matter where you’re at in your program, no matter where you’re at in your record, it doesn’t matter when that game comes.
“I think that’s really important.”
🚨Arrive early and get rewarded!🚨
The first 1,250 students to arrive at Stegeman Coliseum tomorrow for @UGABasketball‘s game vs. Georgia Tech will receive a throwback replica t-shirt and pizza!
— Georgia Basketball (@UGABasketball) November 19, 2019