Georgia men’s basketball head coach Tom Crean spoke to the media on Jan. 17 prior to Georgia’s trip to Starkville, Mississippi, for a clash with the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Here are some takeaways from The Red & Black:
Remembering stuffed bulldogs
In last season’s home matchup on Feb. 20, 2019 against Mississippi State, a small stuffed bulldog was the difference between a win and a loss. After trailing by as many as 17 points in the second half, Georgia surged back and tied the game at 67 with 9.1 seconds to go. Mississippi State’s Quindary Weatherspoon was fouled with .5 seconds on the clock and had a chance to walk away with a win.
Outraged Georgia fans booed the referees for the controversial foul call. One student took it a step further — throwing a white stuffed bulldog onto the court after Weatherspoon missed his first free throw. The fateful throw resulted in a technical foul and gave Weatherspoon another free throw. He closed the game out and gave Georgia its 11th straight SEC loss.
Crean looked back on the incident and said it was a really tough day for him and his team. He remembered looking back at the film and said he believed the foul was on Mississippi State and not on Georgia’s Jordan Harris. Overall, he said he was disappointed with how the situation was managed, but he still found some time to joke about it.
“They can throw one [in Starkville],” Crean said. “I’d be cool if somebody threw one there as long as it’s not a souvenir of Uga or something like that.”
Wheeler’s status uncertain
Georgia played against Tennessee on Jan. 15 without its starting point guard Sahvir Wheeler after he injured his ankle on a rebound attempt midway through the second half. The Bulldogs went on to win 80-63, but Wheeler’s status remains unclear as of Friday.
The freshman walked through everything the team did in practice on Thursday, but didn’t fully practice. Crean said he was expecting to see more from Wheeler in practice on Friday afternoon and on Saturday prior to the 8:30 p.m. tipoff.
Wheeler is averaging 8.2 points per game and 4.9 assists per game. He spent much of the season acting as the sixth man for the Bulldogs but broke into the starting lineup against Auburn on Jan. 11. Crean said Wheeler is obviously a huge factor, but the Bulldogs will have to deal with it if he’s unable to play.
Freshman Jaykwon Walton missed the past two games with concussion-like symptoms following a collision in practice. Crean said he’s been cleared to play and he practiced on Thursday. Walton hasn’t featured much for the Bulldogs, averaging just under six minutes in the six games he’s played in.
Previewing Mississippi State
Crean keyed in on Reggie Perry and Nick Weatherspoon when giving his brief scouting report for Mississippi State. The duo makes up about 30 points of the Mississippi State’s 72-point average per game.
Perry poses the toughest challenge for Georgia because of his size. The sophomore from Thomasville, Georgia, stands at 6-foot-10 and weighs 250-pounds. Georgia lacks depth down low, so foul trouble could prove to be a deciding factor in the game. Perry also has the ability to stretch the floor and hit 3-pointers. He’s attempted 14 through the first four games of conference play. But his biggest threat comes when he, Abdul Ado and Robert Woodard II are on the offensive glass.
Mississippi State is No. 1 in the SEC in offensive rebounding, averaging 13.8 per game. Perry, Ado and Woodard make up more than 70% of Mississippi State’s offensive rebounding averages.
“Every game we come in here talking about how important the rebounding is and now we're playing the league leader,” Crean said.