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Braelen Bridges (23) holds the ball. On Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021 at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team defeated Florida International University by a score of 58-51 in their season opener. (Photo: Conor Dillon; dillon.conor11@gmail.com)

Braelen Bridges, a transfer from the University of Illinois Chicago, played a major role in Georgia’s offense against Cincinnati, scoring 24 points while shooting 73%. Bridges is a redshirt senior originally from Georgia. He played at Northwest Florida State and Illinois Chicago before coming back to Georgia.

"Playing in my home state is a blessing,” Bridges said. “I thank [head coach Tom Crean], [assistant coach Steve McClain], the coaching staff for taking the opportunity in giving me the scholarship to play here.”

Bridges has a combined 33 points in his first two games with the Bulldogs and 16 total rebounds, hauling in eight in each game. He had 11 double-digit point games last season with Illinois Chicago, including a span of four consecutive double-digit games where he averaged 13 points per game while shooting 63.6% from the floor.

He along with the team showed fight to finish out the game against Cincinnati and explained how the Bulldogs were able to keep it close and have a chance to win at the end.

Being a senior, Bridges is a leader and an example to the younger guys on the team, forcing each player to work and get better to improve the abilities of the entire team.

“Everybody practices, but it’s what you do that’s beyond required and it’s the level of work you put into it,” Crean said. “Anyone can walk into the gym and shoot around for an hour, but you’re not getting anything done. When you go in there with a purpose and that’s what Braelen does.”

With an attendance of over 12,000, Cincinnati had an atmosphere that Bridges had never played in before, but his teammates were putting him in a position to score.

“At the end of the day, we didn't get the [win],” Bridges said. “The main thing is getting the win. My teammates set me up to have a great game, but we really only care about that [win].”

Bridges leads the team in points, rebounds and shooting percentage amongst players with more than one shot. He plans to focus on the little things in practice this week as he and his teammates prepare for their game against South Carolina State. Bridges plans to focus specifically on rebounds, boxing out, getting out and running the floor, limiting turnovers, running the offense, and being ready on defense.

“We will be fully locked in to improving the things we need to get better at from Saturday night. Locking in on South Carolina State,” Crean said.