J.J. Frazier wasn’t having his best night.
But with the game on the line, it was Frazier who nailed a huge 3-pointer with 1:14 remaining to lift Georgia to a road upset win Thursday. With less than two minutes remaining, Frazier pulled up for a 3 at the top of the key, which helped propel the Bulldogs to a 74-72 win over the Gamecocks.
"Not trying to be selfish or anything but I wanted to keep the ball in my hands and let myself make the play for my teammates," Frazier said.
Frazier finished the game with 19 points, much of it coming in the final minutes thanks to some late free-throw shooting.
The win gives Georgia (16-12, 9-8 SEC) a season sweep over South Carolina (23-7, 10-7).
It was a scrappy game throughout but one that surprisingly featured a lot of offense early. At the half, Georgia led 39-34. Kenny Gaines led Georgia with 20 points due to an early barrage of shooting.
THREE WHO MATTERED
Gaines: Gaines started hot but did cool as the game went on. He shot 6-of-17 and did hit a crucial 3 to tie the game at 55 in the second half and also put in another trey to cut a 4-point deficit to 1.
Frazier: Frazier didn’t have his greatest game shooting the ball until the end. But he ended up with 19 points on 5-of-17 shooting while hitting 7-of-8 free-throw attempts. Frazier led Georgia with nine rebounds and also dished seven assists.
Mindaugas Kacinas: Kacinas was one of three South Carolina players to reach double figures. Kacinas scored 21 points and went 5-of-7 shooting from behind the 3-point line.
It came down to the shot Frazier made at the top of the key for three points. That put Georgia up by six points and offered just enough a cushion to prevent South Carolina from coming back.
Fiery Gaines: Gaines played with a different kind of passion than anyone has seen this year. You could see it in his eyes from the tip. Gaines got off to a good start and scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half. He didn’t back down when South Carolina’s Michael Carrera tried to play a physical style of defense, having some choice words for him at times.
Physical play: Rule changes? It didn’t seem like the referees cared much for those at this stage of the season. Thursday’s game was about as physical as Georgia has been in this year, with officials letting the two teams play early in the game. Neither team reached the double bonus in the first half, although the whistles did pick up as the game went on.
Carrera shouldn’t have shot as much: Down the stretch, South Carolina should have had just about anyone else other than Carrera shoot the ball. While he did account for a five-point burst in the second half, he ended the game 5-of-21 from the field and made only 1 of his 10 3-point attempts. Carrera’s decision to shoot as much as he did played into Georgia’s hands.
New milestone: The Bulldogs will end the regular season with a .500 or better conference record for the fourth consecutive year, which is the first time this ever happened in program history. Georgia's win over South Carolina puts it at 9-8 in the conference with only one game remaining against Alabama.
Used up: Fox called Georgia’s final timeout at the 7:51 mark of the second half, forcing the Bulldogs to go almost eight minutes without being able to stop the clock. He called his final two timeouts close to one another as South Carolina made a run. As it turned it out, however, Georgia didn't need one late in the game.
Triple 20: Gaines' scoring effort marks the third consecutive game he's posted 20 points. Gaines scored 23 points each in games against Auburn and Mississippi.
THEY SAID IT
Fox on beating what he determines to be a quality opponent: "It’s a great win for our team. We beat an NCAA Tournament team. South Carolina belongs in the tournament. They won a bunch of ball games and Frank’s done a great job. Their players have had a great year. If you look at strength of schedules, and all these experts talk about, South Carolina’s not out of bounds. They belong in the NCAA Tournament. I’m really proud of our team beating a team of that quality."
Frazier on the late 3-pointer he hit to give Georgia a late cushion: "I was missing all game. I was having good looks. Out of the initial timeout before that play, Coach Fox told me, 'If you get a good look, knock it down. We believe in you every time.' I came off the screen, he went under. I got a clean look and knocked it down."
Gaines on his quick offensive start: "J.J. was finding me in the break and I was just finding a rhythm. I’ve had a rhythm lately offensively and was trying to feed off of that."
Georgia will conclude its regular season on Saturday by hosting Alabama at 4 p.m.