ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Call Sahvir Wheeler the layup master.
The 5-foot-10 freshman from Houston drove for a game-winning layup with 2 seconds to play to lift Georgia over SMU 87-85 in double overtime Friday night.
Wheeler had already made a layup with less than four seconds to play at the end of the first overtime to tie the game.
“Sahvir is one of the best layup makers I have ever been around,” said Georgia coach Tom Crean.
Rayshaun Hammonds led Georgia (7-3) with 21 points. Anthony Edwards added 16 points and Tyree Crump 12.
Isiaha Mike led SMU (8-2) with 25 points. Tyson Jolly scored 19, and Feron Hunt 17.
Wheeler said he had made similar plays during his high school days in Houston. “This one takes the top spot now because it is at the college level,” he said. “As a player, as a competitor, you don’t necessarily want to be in a game like this, but you love the chance to win a game like this.”
“This was huge for us,” said Crean. “Young players don’t understand how hard it is to win. It is so important that you do not get your head down. We have nine freshmen, and our upperclassmen have not won a lot of games like this.”
Jolly, a 78% free throw shooter entering the game, missed 5 of 9 free throws, and they seemed to all be important. The last opportunity came with 1:23 to go in the second overtime, when he missed a free throw on a bonus.
Jolly later missed a 3-pointer that allowed Georgia to play for the last shot. Crean spread the floor and let Wheeler drive for the game winner.
“It is not a complicated play,” Crean said. “I’ve had it in my base since Marquette. Sahvir made a great read.”
SMU twice was up by three in the first overtime. But when Jolly missed the front end of a one-and-one, it gave Wheeler the opportunity to tie the game 77-all on a layup with 3.7 seconds remaining.
“You have to be proud of the effort because we fought and fought and fought,” said SMU coach Tom Jankovich. “And you know we had a chance to win every time. They would hit the bucket they needed to send it to overtime and double overtime. Gosh darn, it’s a rough one because we had many chances.”
Georgia kept a narrow lead for most of the first half, but a four-point play by the Mustangs’ Hunt sparked an 8-0 run that put SMU ahead 26-21 late in the half.
The Bulldogs closed the half with some momentum, however, when senior Jordan Harris slammed in a miss at the buzzer. Playing for the first time this year after a nine-game suspension, Harris scored the last four points of the half for Georgia to close within 28-25. Both teams shot poorly in the first half. SMU missed 13 of 14 3-point attempts. Georgia was little better, missing 10 of 13 long-range attempts.
Whatever lid was on the basket in the first half was removed as the second half started, with both teams heating up from long range. Well for SMU, at least Mike warmed up, hitting a pair of 3s. But Georgia hit four triples to creep ahead 45-44 with 11:55 to play. The Bulldogs took the lead on a layup by Donnell Gresham on a wild exchange that saw both teams miss contested layups as they raced up and down the floor.
It was a short-lived lead as Mike hit another trey for the Mustangs. After a scoreless first half, Mike was a one-man wrecking crew for SMU, scoring 16 points in the first 12 minutes of the second half, boosting the Mustangs to a 56-52 lead. The last two points came on a spectacular alley-oop slam on a breakaway.
Georgia surged back ahead, ignited by a Harris steal and slam, taking a 62-58 lead with 3:59 to play.
SMU retook the lead at 68-67 on a layup by Kendric Davis with 1:58 to play. Georgia’s Hammonds hit one of two free throws with 1:34 remaining to tie the score, setting up the overtime.
SMU: After winning eight straight to start the season, the Mustangs have lost some momentum with two straight losses.
Georgia: The Bulldogs remained unbeaten at home, and Tom Crean credited the crowd of 10,351 as critical. “There is no way we win this game without the passion of the crowd. It was so great to not only hear the crowd but to feel the crowd. It really invigorates a team.”
Even as senior Jordan Harris returned to the Georgia lineup Friday after being suspended for the first nine games, sophomore Amanze Ngumezi (6-foot-9, 255) has reportedly entered the college basketball transfer portal. Ngumezi averaged 15 minutes a game in the first seven games and scored a career-high 16 points against Delaware State.
SMU hosts Georgia State on Monday.
Georgia hosts Georgia Southern on Monday.