Humphrey powering Dawgs

Humphrey powering Dawgs

ATHENS – Georgia guard Billy Humphrey got a little rest this week because the Bulldogs didn't have a midweek game.

Hopefully, that was enough for the junior and his ailing knee because there are no more breaks in the schedule, and Humphrey has proven too valuable for Georgia live without.

"We're doing everything we can to shelter his time a little bit, but he's playing terrific, and when he plays terrific, we're pretty good," Georgia head coach Dennis Felton said.

Humphrey leads the Bulldogs (11-5, 2-1 SEC) and is 14th in the SEC in scoring heading into today's 7 p.m. game against No. 3 Tennessee (16-2, 3-1). A win today would leave Georgia in at worst a tie for second in the SEC East.

"We're very much looking forward to the opportunity," Felton said.

The Bulldogs wouldn't be in this position if not for Humphrey, who has ably filled the role expected to be taken by Mike Mercer despite playing most of the season in pain. Humphrey has a condition known as "runner's leg" in the cartilage in his left knee. It causes persistent pain and the best treatment is rest, but Felton has made it clear Humphrey won't be getting any of that.

"As soon as I get to moving, I'll feel it within seconds," Humphrey said. "I'm playing at about 85-90 percent, but I've just got to stay focused. I want to be out there so I can't let it slow me down any bit."

Humphrey tied his career high in scoring in this last outing, with 24 points against Arkansas, including a rally-killing 3-pointer, one of his team-best 37 on the season. He is averaging 14.1 points and is fourth in the league in 3-point shooting percentage (41.6 percent).

"He hits shots at crucial times when we need a basket, and it opens up the game for us," point guard Sundiata Gaines said.

Humphrey leads the Bulldogs in minutes played (31.6 per game) despite his injury and is second to Gaines in steals with 31.

"I'm really proud of him because he is toughing through it," Felton said. "He's really in pain all the time, and I don't think it's going to go away at all the rest of the season because he needs to rest, and there's no time to rest right now."

Mercer was expected to start at shooting guard and provide the Bulldogs' best scoring threat this year, but he was dismissed from the team in the preseason. That left the job to Humphrey, a Dacula native who hadn't averaged more than 8.5 points or 24 minutes before this season.

"This year my focus was to be more aggressive, to get back to playing like I did in high school, which was a scorer first and a playmaker," Humphrey said. "Coach (Felton) has been in my ear about staying confident and aggressive, so that's my main focus."

Humphrey's injury hurts most when he moves laterally or pushes off his left leg while running. It doesn't affect the form on his jump shot, he said, except for the fact that he tries to land first on his healthy leg after shooting. Given Humphrey's production this year, the Bulldogs could be forgiven for banging him in the right knee to see how well he might play with two bum wheels, but Gaines said he won't go that far.

"I don't want to do that," Gaines said. "I need all the players I can get around me."

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