Georgia had a clear size advantage over Belmont up front. What the Bruins lacked in height, they made up for with perimeter shooting.
The Bruins shot 47 percent from behind the 3-point line to defeat Georgia 78-69 in the first round of the NIT. Belmont (23-6 overall) caught fire especially in the second half, making six of its first nine 3-ball attempts.
For Georgia (19-15), the loss ends its season one game short of a fourth consecutive 20-win season.
The Bulldogs entered the game shorthanded as forward Yante Maten was unable to play due to a knee injury that will be re-evaluated. Guard Juwan Parker tore his right Achilles and will see a consultant in the coming days.
Without Maten and Parker available, Georgia was unable to make up for the scoring production lost. J.J. Frazier scored 29 points, with Tyree Crump and Turtle Jackson adding 10 points apiece.
Leading 37-34, Belmont forward Dylan Windler kick-started the Bruins with back-to-back 3-pointers to start the second half. From there, Belmont continued to roll with the outside shot and led 63-50 with 9:54 left to go in the game.
Belmont forward Evan Bradds helped balance the offensive attack with 15 points inside, with the 6-foot-7 and 205-pound forward working mostly against bigger defenders in Derek Ogbeide and Mike Edwards.
With 1:09 to play in the game, head coach Mark Fox pulled Frazier out of the game. The senior, who hugged Fox after returning to the bench, received a standing ovation as the fans began to chant “Thank you, J.J.”
Four who mattered
Frazier: With Maten and Parker sidelined, Frazier was tasked with the bulk of the scoring load once again. He put in 29 points on 9-of-22 shooting from the field. He also had to play some small forward during the game with Georgia dealing with a short bench.
Crump: Crump hit two 3-pointers and scored 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field. Crump also added two defensive rebounds in 18 minutes on the floor.
Belmont’s sharp-shooters: Instead of reeling off multiple Belmont players, each of the 3-point shooters get recognized here. Amanze Egekese made four of his seven 3-point attempts. Taylor Barnette went 4-of-9 shooting from behind the arc. Dylan Windler saw three of his six 3-point attempts go through the hoop. The Bruins were on fire from deep and Georgia was unable to stop it.
Bradds: Bradds isn’t a conventional post player, considering his height and weight disadvantage. But he’s a crafty player down low who has a knack for scoring. His 15 points came on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, and he had nine rebounds.
In the first 10:11 of the second half, Belmont outscored Georgia 26-16. The Bruins held a 13-point lead, which proved too difficult for the Bulldogs to answer.
Missing pieces on defense: Georgia was unable to make up for Maten and Parker’s losses on the defensive end of the floor. Without their veteran leadership, Belmont worked the ball around offensively and found wide-open 3-point shooters more often than not. Inside, Maten was missed considerably as the Bulldogs oftentimes were forced to play with smaller lineups.
Frazier era ends at Georgia: While his last game ended in a loss, Frazier put on a magnificent show for those who came to Stegeman Coliseum. He made the circus layups fans have grown accustomed to seeing. He drove the lane to draw contact and made 11 of 12 free-throw attempts. Frazier will likely go down as one of Georgia’s top-10 players to ever suit up.
Frazier’s free-throw shooting: Before missing an attempt at the 11:49 mark of the second half, Frazier had made 45 consecutive free throws. This set a Georgia program record and is the second-longest streak in SEC history.
Belmont’s shooting prowess: The Bruins shot 45.2 percent from the field, which was the third-best from a non-conference opponent against Georgia this season. Only Furman (50 percent) and Marquette (46.3 percent) shot the ball better against the Bulldogs in non-conference play.
They said it
Fox on the loss: “We just could not find a lineup that could get stops and also play offense. We were disjointed and Belmont has a great shooting team. We couldn’t settle on a defense that could slow them down on the 3-point line. They had two spurts, one to start the second half and one in the middle of the first, that they knocked in some 3-point shots and that really was the difference in the game.”
Frazier on the standing ovation he received at the end of the game: “It was nice to know that the fans appreciated my hard work. I put my heart and soul into this university. If you were to cut me open, my blood would be red and black. I love Georgia. It’s nice that my efforts didn’t go unnoticed.”