Tom Crean knew his Georgia basketball team was poised to win at Memphis when he looked into their eyes during a timeout during the back-and-forth slugfest.
“You look in their eyes, they’re looking back at you, and you’re not trying to convince them they can win,” Crean said on CBS after the win. “That’s huge.”
Indeed, and so was the statement Crean’s Bulldogs (10-3) made by beating the No. 9-ranked Tigers, 65-62, in the nationally televised CBS matchup on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s absolutely paramount and it was a made-for-TV game, with us not being in the Big 12 Challenge, they come back to our place next year,” Crean said on the Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network. “Everybody knew what Memphis was, and the hype surrounding them. That’s why it was such a big win.”
It was Georgia’s first road win over a Top 10 team since beating a No. 10-ranked Kentucky team 65-57 on Jan. 17, 2004.
It was also UGA’s first win over a Top 10 team since beating a No. 10 Kentucky team 77-70 on Jan. 5, 2011.
The Tigers (12-2) had won 10 straight and were a 9-point favorite to beat the Bulldogs.
“Bottom line for us we got a chance to showcase our program early in the second year, on national television, right before an NFL playoff game,” Crean said.
“Really, really proud of the way they played, and I’m glad so many people got to see it.”
Both programs featured 10 newcomers this season, but Georgia made better use of theirs.
Crean’s team showed more balance and ball movement, with 18 assists on 24 made baskets, while Memphis had 10 assists on 22 makes.
Penny Hardaway’s Tigers had to rely on a friendly homecourt whistle, 11 of 20 from the free-throw line, while Georgia was just 7 of 11.
“When they get 20 free throws and we get 11, and a lot of those are at the end when they had so far to go to get into the bonus,” Crean said. “I’m not sure I’ve seen something like that, where you had that far to go to get into the bonus.”
Anthony Edwards, Georgia’s prolific freshman signee and a projected NBA lottery pick, was just 4-of-17 shooting and scored 13 points.
But Edwards still affected the game greatly, drawing attention from the Tigers’ defense while pulling down five rebounds and dishing out four assists.
Freshman point guard Sahvir Wheeler delivered 10 points and seven assists, graduate transfer Donnell Gresham Jr. had 12 points and 8 rebounds.
Junior Rayshaun Hammonds delivered a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, providing the rebounding the undersized Bulldogs needed against Memphis.
Crean said Georgia, which has just two players 6-9 or taller, must continue to play the way it did at Memphis to be competitive in the SEC.
The Bulldogs play host to No. 17 Kentucky (10-3) at 9 p.m. on Tuesday in Stegeman Coliseum before traveling to play at No. 8 Auburn (13-0) next Saturday and then returning home for a game with Tennessee (8-5) on Jan. 15.
“If we don’t build a physicality, if we don’t build a five-man team rebounding group when we’re on the court, we’re going to struggle, because it’s a very good rebounding league and we don’t have the size,” Crean said.
“The bottom line for us, when we compete like that, that has to continue to show us that not only we can do it, but how important it is that we do, do it.”
Georgia basketball boxscore vs. Memphis
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