Wheeler’s historic performance leads Georgia to 91-78 upset over LSU
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Wheeler’s historic performance leads Georgia to 91-78 upset over LSU

Sahvir Wheeler
Photo: Tony Walsh/UGA

ATHENS, Ga. – A historic triple-double performance from sophomore Sahvir Wheeler led the University of Georgia basketball team to a 91-78 win over LSU, on Tuesday evening before 1,638 fans at Stegeman Coliseum.

Wheeler’s triple-double performance marked the first in the program’s 116-season history with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. Sophomore Toumani Camara notched a double-double that led all scorers with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting and 10 rebounds. This marks Camara’s seventh double-double of the season which leads the SEC.

Freshman K.D. Johnson and junior Tye Fagan followed close behind with 21 and 18 points, respectively. Johnson, who had a career-high of four assists, also posted his third 20-point performance in Georgia’s last five games.

“I had no idea on the triple double until the end of the game when John Bateman told me,” Georgia head coach Tom Crean said. “It’s phenomenal, and it’s incredible when you think about how many years they’ve played basketball here—116 years, and it’s the first time it has happened….We had a lot of high-level energy and effort basketball out of these guys, and they established early on that they were going to play with toughness. I said to them today, ‘That the team to establish the toughness was going to be the team that got the running game,’ because it’s hard to get your running game going, consistently, if you’re taking the ball out of the net.”

The contest started with an early lead by the Bulldogs. Back-to-back jumpers by Fagan and graduate Justin Kier contributed to a 10-0 run over the Tigers. Georgia held a five-point advantage with points scored by Wheeler, Johnson, and graduate Andrew Garcia.

Georgia benefitted from a LSU scoring drought by maintaining a steady lead. With the score tightening, points scored by Camara and Fagan kept the Bulldogs out front. Georgia’s advantage extended to 16 at the one-minute mark. Camara ended the half with a buzzer-beating layup, bringing the score to 45-29 at the half.

The Bulldogs’ success continued in the opening minutes of the second half with Georgia responding to all points scored by LSU. With multiple Tiger-turnovers and back-and-forth exchanges, the Bulldogs maintained an ample lead.

Midway through the half, a three-pointer from graduate P.J. Horne and a jumper from Johnson extended Georgia into its largest lead of the night with 22. Leading into the final minutes of the contest, the Bulldogs stayed in front for good with Wheeler’s final layup clinching the win.

“So many times, our guys got the rebound,” said Crean. “We got out ahead, and we didn’t have too many live-ball turnovers in the first half, which made a huge difference to us. We had a lot of really good contributions. K.D. [Johnson] did an excellent job. P.J. [Horne] made threes. Tye Fagan did outstanding! We had a lot of really good basketball. They’ve done a great job bouncing back from the other day. They just continue to show resilience. They just continue to get better every day.”

Georgia remains home for Senior Day against South Carolina (5-11, 3-9) on Saturday, Feb. 27 at Stegeman Coliseum. The matchup with the Gamecocks is set for 1 p.m. tip time and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

POST-GAME NOTES

• Georgia now has a 28-23 lead in contests against LSU in Athens. However, the Tigers own a 68-47 lead in the all-time series between UGA and LSU.

• Sophomore Ssahvir Wheeler had an all-star game securing Georgia’s first triple-double in program history with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists. Wheeler posted a double-digit scoring game for the 20th time of the season, and 31st of his career. He also had his sixth double-figure assist game of the season.

• On his hot streak Wheeler bagged his carer high in assists (13) and rebounds (11). Wheeler is now tied for the third most assists for a Bulldog in a singular game with Gino Gianfranceso against Bucknell on 1/4/73.

• In addition, Wheeler moved to No. 2 among UGA’s single-season assist leaders with 165. He is four away from the school record set by Pertha Robinson in 1994-95.

• Fellow sophomore Toumani Camara captured his first collegiate 20-point game, reaching double figures for the 18th time this season and 26th of his career. Camara also earned his seventh double-double of his career and of the season. His seven double-doubles leads the SEC this season. In the process Camara established a new career high scoring output with 22 points and a new career high blocks with three.

• Powerhouse freshman K.D. Johnson had his fourth 20-point game in his collegiate career, amassing 21 points on the hardwood. Johnson tallied a double-digit output for the 10th time in his career as a Bulldog. He also had a career high performance in assists with four.

• Junior Tye Fagan posted 18 points in the game, reaching the double-digits for the 11th time this season and for the 14th time in his career.

• Eight different Georgia players have had a scoring output in the double-figures during the 2020-21 season combining to produce 90 double-digit efforts in UGA’s 23 games.

Four different players in The Red & Black achieved the double-figure mark tonight. Georgia’s record when four or more Bulldogs are in the double-digits, Overall: 11-5, SEC:6-5, and Crean:23-15.

• Tonight’s clash between SEC rivals was the first time Georgia has been up by 10 points at the half since (45-31) Cincinnati on Dec. 19, 2020.

• Georgia scored 91 points, the 15th time the Bulldogs have done so in 87 games under Tom Crean. By comparison, Georgia reached the 90-point mark 15 times in 457 games priior to Crean’s arrival dating back to the 2006-07 season.

POST-GAME QUOTES

GEORGIA HEAD COACH TOM CREAN

On Sahvir Wheeler’s historic performance…

“I had no idea on the triple double until the end of the game when John Bateman told me. I really don’t look at the stats during the game. Probably sometimes I should, but I had no idea. It’s phenomenal, and it’s incredible when you think about how many years they’ve played basketball here—116 years, and it’s the first time its happened. Really, he had a quadruple-double because he had 10 deflections, which is important to me, and Toumani [Camara] had a triple-double because he had the points and rebounds, and he had 15 deflections. We got a lot of high-level energy and effort basketball out of these guys, and they established early on that they were going to play with toughness. I said to them today, ‘That they team that established the toughness was going to be the team that got the running game going best,’ because it’s hard to get your running game going consistently if you’re taking the ball out of the net. So many times, our guys got the rebound, we got out ahead, and we didn’t have too many live-ball turnovers in the first half, which made a huge difference to us. We got a lot of really good contributions. K.D. [Johnson] did an excellent job. P.J. [Horne] made threes. Tye Fagan did outstanding! We had a lot of really good basketball. They’ve done a great job bouncing back from the other day. They just continue to show resilience. They just continue to get better every day.”

On the takeaways from a big win against a good team…

“I think you take a lot. It’s the way you prepare. It’s the mindset. It’s the ball movement. It’s staying connected defensively. It’s the defensive rebounds. I thought Toumani [Camara] established that he was going to be on that rim rebounding-wise, scoring-wise, and most importantly with blocking the shots early and challenging them. That was very important. It was a very efficient many ways. It was an outstanding team. He does a great job with them. They have enormously talented players. We knew from playing them the first time that we had to be better defensively. We had to be better taking care of the ball. You can never come in and say that you know you’re going to shoot the ball so well, but I thought even the threes that we missed were open threes, good threes. Again, you have to establish that you’re going to play in the paint. You have to establish that
you’re going to get to the foul line, and that’s what we were able to do.”

On triple-doubles in his coaching career…

“I know we had a famous one when Dwyane Wade had his at Kentucky. I think I had another one at Indiana. I don’t know. So many times, I’m not good with stats, heck, I forget our own players numbers sometimes. I just don’t sit here and wait on that stuff. For him to get a triple-double this late in the season like that and to do it the way that he did it against a very good team like that, that says a lot about where he’s at and where his future is heading. I’m never very good at putting it into perspective until I watch the film, but we wanted to come out and establish aggressiveness, toughness, physicality, and speed, and for the most part—these guys did that.”

On adding another game this regular season…

“That’s not up to us. That will be up to the league, and we’ll learn from them. We’ll play another game next week. We’ll learn later in the week who that is going to be, but certainly we play to play. I don’t think there is any reason that we wouldn’t, unless something happened with COVID[-19] with somebody else. We will wait for the league to tell us, and we’ll go, whether it’s here, on the road, we’ll be ready to roll.”

GEORGIA SOPHOMORE TOUMANI CAMARA

On the big offensive performance tonight…

“It’s something I said from the beginning of the year. It’s something we can do. Everyone on this team can get the night going. Maybe one day it’s going to be Sahvir. Another day it’s going to be Justin [Kier], other nights it’s going to be me. Another night it’s going to be Tye Fagan, P.J.[Horne], and Andrew [Garcia]. It can be anyone really. I think it’s a big advantage for our team. When the ball is moving like that it’s really hard to beat us. It’s a great feeling. I can’t complain, it’s a lot of fun to play with these guys.”

On how this game builds confidence…

“It’s a great win. We learn a lot about how we can play defense. I believe our pressure can be great like that every game. We just got to keep it going. Like I said every time, ‘We learn how to get better after every game.’ This game we really learned how strong we can be on defense and how well the ball can move and how everybody can participate. We had a lot of people in double-figures today, so that means a lot to our game and how well the ball moves.”

On changing the narrative of UGA basketball…

“We just want to be great. People who say that are not with us in the locker room, not with us between the four lines. It’s something we think about. The goal is to win games and be great at getting better every day. It’s always been the objective to bring this team to a better reputation. Like I said, ‘It’s getting better every day.’”

GEORGIA SOPHOMORE SAHVIR WHEELER

On if him having the first triple-double in school history tonight has really sunken in yet…

“It’s a great feeling, but it’s an even better feeling for it to come out of a win. The biggest thing was the rebounding because Coach Crean, my dad, and some of my other AAU coaches have been telling me that guard-rebounding is a big thing, especially in the league. We can’t always depend on Andrew [Garcia] and those guys because those guys are fighting some monsters down there, so it’s going to be hard for them to fight and then go get the rebounds. That’s something we’ve been emphasizing, so I’m trying to help in there and get as many rebounds as I can. With the rebounds, that makes our break faster because that’s one less pass and one less second that we’re wasting if we’re already in our lanes and in our rhythm. Guys also made shots; guys made shots today, and that’s always a good thing for a win—a confidence-boosting win against a good team. It was a good day.”

On if he aims for triple-doubles, and when tonight it seemed possible…

“I knew the double-double was definitely possible, with the eight rebounds at halftime so I was trying to get to 10 rebounds to secure the double-double. Then we went on a run and those guys started hitting some shots, guys like P.J. [Horne], Toumani [Camara] made some nice cuts, and even K.D. [Johnson] got himself involved in early offense. So, that’s when I thought there might be a little chance here. Like I say when it comes to the assists, the credit is always to my teammates. Those are the guys who finish the plays and make the shots, so if it wasn’t for them, I obviously wouldn’t be in this position. I was just hoping it [the 10thassist to K.D. Johnson] would go in, and they wouldn’t call offensive goaltending or interference, but they let it play out.”

On how this game can boost both the team’s and his confidence…

“Having a good win like this at home is definitely a confidence booster against a quality opponent. LSU is a tournament team, they’re consistently good, and they got us the first time earlier this year, so we wanted to come home and protect home court and get the win. After a five-game stretch of some really tough competition in the SEC, we’ve played some really good games and some good halves. We finally wanted to put together two good halves of basketball, especially at home, so that was the main focus. Definitely, a confidence booster going into South Carolina, that’s a team that I don’t think we’ve beaten yet since I’ve been here or since Coach Crean has been here, so we’re really focusing on winning that game. We don’t know what’s going to happen next, as far as the postseason, because this has never happened before having a pandemic in the postseason. If we continue to win games and take it one day at a time and get better each day, I think that good things will happen.”

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