Echols hits big from beyond the arc in Bulldogs’ third straight win

It’s unlikely walk-on point guard Taylor Echols will soon forget Georgia’s win against the Lipscomb Bisons Saturday afternoon at Stegeman Coliseum.

The Bulldogs won 84-75 and Echols’ career-high nine points — all of which came on 3-pointers — matched his point total for the season.

“I’m out there to take an open shot when I get,” the junior from McDonough said. “They happened to leave me open a couple of times and the ball fell for me.”

Echols was the engine that drove the Georgia offense Saturday. The Bulldogs were plus-25 when Echols was on the court, and he also had four assists and three rebounds.

“Initially I wanted to make sure our team got set up in the offense and I wanted to make sure I took care of the ball,” he said. “That’s the job of the point guard, so that’s my first task.”

Coach Mark Fox said Echols — who had no scholarship offers from Division-I schools — impressed him with his range at open tryouts prior to last season.

“You could tell in the tryout that this guy had a real knack to shoot the ball,” Fox said. “I mean, he can really shoot the basketball. I thought he turned down some shots tonight that I wish he would’ve taken.”

Echols nearly quadrupled his average time on the court. In the games leading up to Saturday, he played 6.6 minutes per game. Against Lipscomb, he played 23.

One reason for Echols’ extended playing time was the absence of the team’s leading scorer — sophomore guard Charles Mann — who was resting a bone bruise he suffered against Appalachian State.

“Charles has an injury that just needs rest to heal. He hasn’t practiced in 12 days,” Fox said. “I got no idea of a timetable (for his return), to be honest with you.”

In Mann’s absence, Echols and sophomore Brandon Morris split time running the point. Fox said Echols could continue to see significant playing time due to his strong performance against the Bisons.

“It all depends on the matchups and how they practice, but certainly tonight he earned the chance to be back out there again,” Fox said.

Morris, who led the team in points with a season-high 17, said Echols has been proving he deserves playing time at practice.

“He’s been working his tail off,” Morris said. “Last year, he didn’t really play. You can tell. He’s playing so good in practice you have to put him in. He’s playing that good. He’s came a long way and he’s still getting better.”

Fox said Echols has practiced well this entire season, but has stepped his game up in the practices held since Georgia’s last game.

“He’s practiced really well all year,” Fox said. “I’ve tried to simplify some things for him to allow him to be more successful. He really has practiced well, waited his time, earned his time and tonight he took advantage of it.”

Georgia plays against Gardener-Webb at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

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