ATHENS — Georgia’s projected NBA lottery pick heated up in the second half on Friday night, but Tom Crean wanted the ball in Sahvir Wheeler’s hands on the final play.
Wheeler, a 5-foot-9 freshman from Houston did not disappoint the Bulldogs (7-3) or the announced crowd of 10,351 at Stegeman Coliseum.
“I went to the side where the big was slower than the other big,” Wheeler said, still grinning after the 87-85 double-overtime win over SMU (8-2).
“So I tried to attack that side and get into the lane and make a play for myself or a teammate.”
Georgia came out of the timeout with 14.1 seconds remaining, getting the ball to Wheeler, who dribbled the clock down to about six seconds.
Wheeler then turned on the jets, driving past SMU guard and fellow Houston basketball product Kendric Davis at the top of the key, and then putting a move on 6-8 Isiaha Mike to get to the rim for the game-winning basket with 1.9 seconds left.
“Being a confident kid, you just know there’s just certain times where you’re going to be able to do what you do best,” Wheeler said. “I think one of my strengths is getting to the paint.”
Rayshaun Hammonds, who recorded his third double-double of the season with 21 points and 11 rebounds, said he wasn’t surprised.
“You see those highlights,” Hammonds said. “He’s been doing that for a long time.”
The win ranks as Georgia’s best of the season, and makes the Bulldogs 3-0 in games decided by 4 points or less.
Last season, UGA was 0-6 in games decided by 4 points or less.
SMU coach Tim Jankovich said Crean’s young team is a handful to keep up with.
“They’re a very talented offensive team, they’re not that easy to guard, and they’ve got quickness,” Jankovich said. “They’ve got size and great shooters, so it’s a tough team to guard, especially when you’re playing heavy minutes like we did.”
Crean was beaming with pride, pleased to see Wheeler come through in the clutch after he drew up the final play for him.
“For (Wheeler) to get in the lane and make a play, he’s been there a ton of times, no doubt about that,” Crean said. “He’s been there hundreds of times in those situations because of his DNA and the way he’s been raised, as a person and as a player, we’re comfortable with him making a decision.”
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 21, 2019