It wasn’t too long before tipoff that Georgia guard Tyree Crump learned he would start against Tennessee.
Following three consecutive losses, Georgia head coach Mark Fox decided to tinker with the lineup. That included going with Crump, who was averaging 4.8 minutes per game previously, in the first five.
Having come to Georgia with some lofty expectations as an outside shooter, Crump hasn’t seen as much playing time as many outsiders may have expected. Given the opportunity during Georgia’s 76-75 win over Tennessee, Crump made sure to make his minutes count.
He got off to a good start with an early 3-point basket from the top of the key. Subbed out at the 17:35 mark of the first half, Crump came back in with 9:54 to go in the opening half. More importantly, Crump remained in the game down the stretch after Georgia rallied from a 14-point deficit in the second half.
During Georgia’s comeback, Crump hit a key 3-pointer off of an assist from J.J. Frazier. Crump then hit his biggest shot of the season with 2:26 left to play in the game. Frazier drove to the basket and drew two defenders in his direction. But the whole way it looked like Frazier’s intent was to pass to a wide-open Crump in the left corner.
Crump drained a 3 and put Georgia up 70-64. He finished with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting.
“I just trusted in J.J. a lot,” Crump said. “I knew that eventually he’d find me shots. I just believed and had to step up and help. I knew that one of our best scorers (Yante Maten) had fouled out. I knew that I had to step up and help him so that’s what I did.”
While admitting surprise with the start, Crump said he didn’t feel any different leading up to the game’s tipoff.
“I had a lot of confidence going in, knowing we were going to win this game or try to win this game,” Crump said.
Playing time was at a premium for Crump earlier in the year. The 16 minutes he played were a season-high and only the fifth time he saw double digits in this category — the other four games being against Gardner-Webb (11), Morehouse (13), Charleston Southern (10) and Florida (10).
Tuesday’s loss against Florida might have served as the precursor to Crump’s increase in minutes. Against Tennessee, Georgia ended up needing Crump in crunch time.
It has been a gradual process for Crump to crack the starting lineup, particularly with his development on the defensive end. Given how big Crump was for Georgia against a top-50 opponent in Tennessee, it’s quite possible the Bulldogs begin turning to the freshman more often.
“I believe in Tyree,” Fox said. “He didn’t play early because he really hadn’t seen a lot of the defenses that we ask him to play. He hadn’t seen a lot of the defenses he plays against. He had a lot to learn. But he’s had a great teacher every day in J.J. and Tyree has been getting better, better and better. I got a lot of faith in the kid. He played very well and was a huge part of the win.”