He did, with a career-high 27 points along with seven rebounds and six assists, all game highs in Georgia’s 83-70 win over Grambling State Wednesday night.
"I realize I had four freshmen on the court with me," explained Gaines. "A lot of times they have not been in situations with the game being tight.
"I try to get my teammates involved first," added Gaines. "If it gets tight, I try to encourage everybody and lift the team up by putting everybody on my shoulders."
Coach Dennis Felton is not so sure he wants Gaines to carry the team.
"Yata has got to continue learning how to use his teammates rather than just taking things on his own shoulders to make plays himself," he said. "He got away from that tonight. That is what you want a point guard to do. In terms of his continued growth in the game, I would like to see him get consistent in learning how to control his team and manipulate his teammates to work for him."
Grambling coach Larry Wright was impressed with Gaines. "He really shot the ball well tonight and was the main difference in the game," he said. "He made a couple of shots that broke our back in the game, and at the end we couldn’t respond. He was in full control and controlled his team very well."
Anthony Williams scored 16 to lead Grambling State (0-2).
Georgia (2-0) played without starting guard Billy Humphrey, suspended under athletic department policy after he was arrested Tuesday for felony possession of a weapon. Humphrey started the season opener and scored 13 points. Corey Butler made his first career start in Humphrey’s place.
The Tigers hit 10 of 19 3-pointers and hung close throughout the game.
"They were playing scrappy basketball," Gaines said. "They hit a lot of open shots, and we had a lot of breakdowns on defense. You don’t want a team to hang around, but we maintained our composure."
"They felt really good about their ability to break us down off the dribble at some positions because of theitr mobility," said Felton. "They played with a carefree attitude. They had confidence thåy could spread the floor, and I was just as determined we were going to stay in a man and win the game on our terms."
Grambling State led three times in the early minutes, the last time at 12-11 after Williams nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing with 15:14 to go in the half. But freshman Chris Barnes ignited a 6-0 run by Georgia with a pair of free throws and a dunk for a 17-12 lead.
Three 3-pointers by Gaines and Zac Swansey helped Georgia stay up on the Tigers. But it was a 15-6 run that boosted the Bulldogs to a 45-30 lead with 3:18 to go in the half.
Grambling State outscored Georgia 12-3 as the half ended. Andrew Prestley scored seven for the Tigers during that stretch.
Grambling State trailed only 75-68 with 3:38 to play after Duran Diaz hit a 3-pointer, but Georgia scored five straight points and milked the clock to protect the lead.
Terrance Woodbury added 11 points for Georgia. Prestley and Diaz scored 13 and 12, respectively, for the Tigers.
Humphrey attended the game and sat on the bench in a suit. He was not available for comment after the game.