ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia coach Tom Crean wasn’t sure how much prized freshman Anthony Edwards would even be able to play on Wednesday because of a problematic lower body injury that limited him to 20 minutes of practice on Tuesday.
Thanks to some work from the trainers, Edwards was able to play and again contribute at a high level. He combined with Rayshaun Hammonds to score 40 points to lead Georgia to a 95-59 win over North Carolina Central University on Wednesday.
Edwards scored 21 points, his third straight 20-point game. The freshman was 8-for-15 from the field, 4-for-8 on 3-pointers, and added four assists. He was the team’s leading scorer for the sixth time this season.
“He buys into knowing he’s got to get better,” Crean said. “For an 18-year-old, he’s very responsive to what has to happen for him to become a better player, a better teammate, all those different things.”
Hammonds scored 19 points, making 7-for-12 from the field, and grabbed nine rebounds. Hammonds helped Georgia outrebound NCCU 54-25.
Georgia (6-2) also got 16 points from Tyree Crump and 11 from reserve Christian Brown. The Bulldogs scored 90-plus points for the fifth time and scored 52 points in the paint.
“I always tell Rayshaun, ‘We’re going to feed it through you, so ya’ll get going,’” Crump said.
North Carolina Central (2-7) lost its third straight. The Eagles were led by senior forward Jibiri Blount with 19 points, eight rebounds and five steals. C.J. Keyser scored 16 points off the bench. The Eagles were without Randy Miller, a preseason all-conference selection who 14.3 points.
Crean was fearful of this game since his players are still recovering jet lag after a 14-hour flight to Hawaii for the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.
“Games like this scare coaches half to death and this one probably scared me three-quarters to death,” Crean said. “To come back from Maui and try to get your body clock … it doesn’t matter if you’re 19 or 79, your body clock is going to be different after a trip like that. So to get that win is fantastic.”
Georgia was playing without starting forward Amanze Ngumezi, who was suspended indefinitely for undisclosed reasons. He was replaced in the lineup by freshman Rodney Howard, who had four points, four rebounds and four blocks.
After a slow start, Georgia began to get separation with a 6-0 run culminated by an emphatic breakaway dunk by Edwards that gave the Bulldogs a 14-9 lead and caused NCCU to call a timeout. That didn’t slow Georgia, which stretched the streak to 13-0 before Kobby Ayetey connected on a 3-pointer with 10:18 left.
Georgia used a 18-5 run and pushed its lead to 21 points when Edwards finished a fast break with a dunk to make it 46-25. The Bulldogs led 50-35 at halftime.
The Bulldogs put it away early in the second half with an 11-0 run — sparked by Hammonds’ 3-pointer and fastbreak layup on consecutive plays — that upped their lead to 63-37 with 15:25 remaining.
A 12-0 run padded Georgia’s lead to 79-45 with 7:04 left, when the Bulldogs removed their starters for the rest of the game.
North Carolina Central: The Eagles were the preseason pick to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference but dropped to 0-2 against Power Five schools. NCCU lost to Louisville by 29 points in November. The Eagles are now 1-5 against teams from the SEC.
Georgia: The Bulldogs improved to 5-0 at home and have won those games by an average of 20.4 points. It was their second win over a team from the MEAC this season, having beaten Delaware 100-66 on Nov. 15. Georgia improved to 16-0 all-time against the MEAC.
Georgia successfully built its lead through its success on 3-point baskets. The Bulldogs were 9-for-25 on 3-pointers, their second-highest total of the season. Georgia made 12 treys in a loss to Michigan State in the second round of the Maui Invitational.
Georgia was playing without starting forward Amanze Ngumezi, who was indefinitely suspended. Coach Tom Crean said, “There are a combination of factors involved in this decision, all of which are associated with his lack of personal awareness and the attitude expected of a Georgia Bulldog basketball player.” Ngumezi, 6-foot-9 sophomore from Savannah, was averaging 6.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in seven games. Freshman Rodney Howard got the start, his first.
North Carolina Central will finish a four-game road trip on Saturday at Charleston Southern before returning home for its first game since Nov. 21.
Georgia is on the road again on Saturday against Arizona State in a return match of a home-and-home series. The Sun Devils beat the Bulldogs in Athens last season.
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