Georgia Bests Florida A&M, 85-75
ATHENS, Ga. – Led by a pair of double-doubles, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team opened its 2020-21 season with an 85-75 over Florida A&M Sunday afternoon before 1,638 spectators at Stegeman Coliseum. The Bulldogs (1-0) were able to pull away late from the Rattlers (0-2) on the strength of 58 percent shooting in the second half, as well as a stout showing from their bench.
Stony Brook transfer Andrew Garcia led all scorers with 22 points on 6-of-8 shooting, along with four rebounds and two steals. Junior Tye Fagan posted a career-high 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting, picking up his first career double-double with a team-best 10 rebounds.
Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler also tallied a double-double with 12 points and a career-high 12 assists, becoming the first Bulldog to amass 12 assists since G.G. Smith against Vanderbilt on Feb. 3, 1999. Led by Garcia, the Georgia bench outscored Florida A&M, 37-2, while also dominating in the paint with a 50-32 points in the paint advantage.
“We had no idea what to expect, and I know that sounds cliché, but it just totally is,” said head coach Tom Crean following the game. “We hadn’t played a game against somebody else since March 10. That’s why Wednesday night was so important, with no exhibitions or scrimmages, but we didn’t get it. I’m proud of the way they came out and started the game.”
The Bulldogs opened quickly, moving out to a 13-2 lead before the first media timeout, with four starters contributing buckets and Fagan grabbing six fast rebounds. The Rattlers responded with a 7-3 run as both teams continued to struggle from beyond the arc in the early going, shooting for a combined 1-for-11 through the under-12 break.
“We want to be a quick-starting team – that was a very quick start for us,” said Crean. “We were locked in. We had a great walkthrough this morning. They were lively and energetic and ready to play against somebody else, but then reality sets in, and you are actually playing against someone else. In practice, you can stop things, you can do X amount of possessions and then change over, and we had to keep going and these guys learned.”
FAMU continued to eat into the advantage, eventually taking the lead for the first time with under six minutes to play in the half on a jumper from junior guard MJ Randolph. The Rattlers continued to ride sharp shooting to a five-point lead until sophomore Christian Brown converted on a four-point play at the 2:31 mark to regain the lead. Brown and Garcia would combine to score the Bulldogs’ final 15 points of the half, with Brown’s jumper with one second remaining setting the score at 38-37 Georgia heading into the locker room.
As the second half opened, Fagan asserted himself, scoring Georgia’s first six points of the half. Yet, Florida A&M stayed hot itself, connecting on its first three field goals of the half to maintain the tie score through the first break, but four straight Fagan baskets punctuated a 10-0 Georgia run comprised entirely of fast break points. Nonetheless, Randolph’s scoring kept the Rattlers in the contest, narrowing the margin back down to four midway through the half. He would eventually finish with 21 points of 9-of-13 shooting to lead FAMU in scoring for the afternoon.
Following a short scoring drought, graduate transfer P.J. Horne’s 3-pointer with 5:50 remaining brought the Bulldogs’ lead to a game-high 12 points. Fellow graduate Justin Kier would also add to the tally with a three of his own, combining with solid shooting from the foul line to help Georgia finally seal control of the contest with just over two minutes to play. FAMU would tack on an 8-2 run in the final minutes to close out the scoring as the Bulldogs notched a season-opening victory.
Georgia will remain home this week as it plays host to the Jacksonville Dolphins on Friday, Dec. 4 at Stegeman Coliseum. The non-conference matchup is set for a 7 p.m. tip time and will be broadcast on SEC Network.