ATHENS —The Anthony “Antman” Edwards Era is officially underway at Georgia, even if it was just an exhibition game on Friday night.
— Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) October 18, 2019
The Bulldogs scored a 93-81 victory over Division ll Valdosta State, leading by double digits the final 16 1/2 minutes in a turnover-plagued game.
The Georgia basketball fans have apparently yet to catch up with the NBA scouts where the excitement around Edwards is concerned.
A crowd of approximately 2,500 — admission was free — was at Stegeman Coliseum to see the projected NBA lottery pick and his new teammates.
Edwards proved plenty capable of asserting himself offensively. He scored a team-high 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and he did so without forcing the issue.
The 6-foot-5 freshman from Atlanta attempted just two shots the final 17 minutes of the game, working the boards and on defense down the stretch.
Edwards possesses a deadly jumper and unmistakable athleticism. Rebounds (6) and steals (3) appeared to be a matter of will for Edwards against the Division ll competition.
Alas, there’s work to do. Edwards turned the ball over three times in the first five minutes en route five turnovers, his ball-handling and passing skills in need of work.
“A little bit of nerves, and a little bit of trying to do too much,” Edwards said, asked about his slow start, “because it was my first game in front of people.”
If there’s a key to the Bulldogs this season, it’s Edwards, and his teammates know it.
“I have a lot of faith in him, he can do a lot of things and he’s very unselfish,” fellow UGA freshman Toumani Camara said Friday.
“We all have a role on the team, and he knows his. To me, he’s the best player I’ve ever been around. So I believe he’s up to the hype.”
Georgia held a 42-37 lead at the half, led by Edwards’ 12 first-half points on 5-of-6 shooting.
Valdosta State raced out to a 12-3 lead before Edwards drained his first shot attempt at the 15:57 mark, a long jumper from the wing to kick-start the UGA offense.
Jordan Harris connected from the corner a moment later, triggering a 13-0 run that Tyree Crump (15 points) capped with a layup that tied the game 23-23 at the 8:54 mark after Edwards triggered the fast break with a deflection on the defensive end.
The teams swapped the lead four times before Rayshaun Hammonds (16 points) scored his second consecutive basket to give the Bulldogs the lead for the remainder of the first half.
Coach Tom Crean will look to polish his young team in the coming days. UGA, with 10 newcomers including nine freshmen, turned the ball over 25 times.
“There were (25) opportunities we had to score (given away by turnovers),” Crean said. “Last year, we averaged 16 opportunities that we didn’t get to score. I’m more concerned about that. We’re all trying to make it simple and better for each other, and that kind of takes off.
“It just takes rhythm, and we don’t have good rhythm, but that comes from playing a lot together.”
Georgia plays an exhibition next Friday at UNC-Charlotte. Its regular-season opener is at 7 p.m. on Nov. 5 against Western Carolina.
The Bulldogs were picked to finish ninth by a panel of SEC basketball writers earlier this week. Edwards the only UGA player named to preseason first-team honors.
Anthony Edwards & Tyree Crump
Georgia coach Tom Crean