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Ailing Humphrey leads UGA over Tech

ATHENS - An MRI had relieved Billy Humphrey's worst fears, but that didn't take away the pain in his left knee.

The former Dacula standout limped through warm-ups, then periodically did the same during Georgia's game with rival Georgia Tech.

The sore knee didn't bother Humphrey's shooting touch, however.

While others were clanging shots off the rim or missing it altogether, the junior guard was stroking the ball as well as usual.

Humphrey scored a game-high 23 points and the Bulldogs beat the Yellow Jackets 79-72 before a sellout crowd of 10,503 on Wednesday night at Stegeman Colisuem.

Humphrey's point total was one off his career best of 24 set Saturday night at Gonzaga.

It was after that game that Humphrey's knee starting bothering him more and more. Instead of practicing on Monday, he made a trip to the doctor.

But the MRI revealed that Humphrey just has an inflammation under the kneecap, not any ligament or cartilage problems. The problem has the fancy name of chondromalacia, but it is commonly referred to as "runner's knee."

Rest and physical therapy, not surgery, is the remedy for the problem. But there is no time for Humphrey to shut things down right now.

As he proved again against Georgia Tech, he is too important to be out of the lineup for the Bulldogs. Especially with the roster already reduced drastically because of disciplinary and other reasons.

Humphrey was 9-for-12 from the floor, including 2-for-3 from behind the arc, and was 3-for-4 at the foul line.

"I'm not too much worried about my leg (when I shoot)," Humphrey said. "If I can get my arms up enough to shoot my shot, I've got a lot of confidence it is going to go in."

But Humphrey wasn't just a factor shooting the ball. He had three steals and played solid defense throughout his 34 minutes against the Yellow Jackets.

"This was a big, big win for us," said Humphrey, who is Georgia's leading scorer at 14 points per game. "It was unfortunate that my knee got bad for our two biggest preseason games. But I had to fight through it.

"My knee hurt more as the game went on. It was probably a little worse than at Gonzaga, but I couldn't let it stop me. We needed this game bad."

The Bulldogs (9-4) open SEC play Saturday at Mississippi State and Humphrey promises to be ready, bad knee and all.

"After a win like this, we're definitely looking forward to SEC play," Humphrey said. "We plan to surprise some people."

The victory was Georgia's 11th straight at home over Georgia Tech, which hasn't won in Athens since 1976.

Humphrey had been 1-1 against the Yellow Jackets, with a loss last season in Atlanta.

He wasn't that much of a factor in the earlier games, but that certainly wasn't the case this time. He started out hot and never cooled off.

Meanwhile, Georgia Tech (7-7) shot just 33.3 percent in the first half while falling behind 36-27 and never completely recovered. The Yellow Jackets made several runs at Georgia in the late going, but couldn't take the lead.

While Humphrey played a starring role for Georgia, the two former Gwinnett County high school standouts on the Georgia Tech roster mostly struggled.

It was an especially frustrating game for freshman forward Gani Lawal. The prized recruit from Norcross started, but didn't score a point.

He played just nine minutes, missing his only shot from the floor and going 0-for-4 at the foul line. He did grab three rebounds.

Berkmar's Matt Causey, the starting point guard, had six points in 11 minutes. The senior transfer did have two assists and two steals.

As the final seconds ticked down, the Georgia students chanted "Just like football! Just like football! Just like football!"

The Bulldogs have seven consecutive victories over the Yellow Jackets on the gridiron.

Now the Yellow Jackets don't have much to celebrate in basketball, either.

Georgia Tech, already 0-1 in the ACC, plays at Miami on Saturday, then hosts No. 1 ranked North Carolina next Wednesday.