J.J. Frazier woke up this morning feeling ill to the point where he needed to see a doctor at a local hospital’s urgent care clinic.
No one would have known this considering that in 36 minutes of game action, Frazier scored 29 points and helped lead Georgia to an 82-80 victory over LSU.
The campus health center was closed, which caused the usual plan of action to be altered. A trainer took Frazier to the clinic, where he tested negative for the flu while experiencing similar symptoms.
With a 6 p.m. tip-off time, Frazier had at least some time to rest before suiting up. And once again, with Georgia still hanging onto hope for an NCAA Tournament berth, Frazier rose to the occasion and put in a memorable performance.
“A lot of times you play your best games when you’re sick,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said.
Fox, of course, was referencing moments when ill athletes somehow still manage to put in elite-level performances. In basketball, this is often compared to Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game,” which saw the game’s greatest score 38 points for his Chicago Bulls in an NBA Finals' Game 5 win over the Utah Jazz.
As for Frazier, he never once appeared sluggish on the court. Eleven of his 29 points came in the first half. Frazier has now scored 28 or more points in four of Georgia’s past five games. With junior forward Yante Maten out for the rest of the regular season with a right knee sprain, Frazier is the focal point of Georgia’s offense.
Case in point, he wasn’t going to miss this game.
It was a legendary performance Frazier put in, one that further cemented his legacy as one of Georgia’s greatest players. It also kept Georgia’s NCAA Tournament hopes alive, considering a loss to the SEC’s last-place LSU would have been devastating.
Saturday’s game probably should have never become as dramatic as it became. Georgia led by 17 in the first half and 13 in the second. But as the Tigers crawled back into the game, Frazier continued to make big plays throughout.
But down the stretch, he almost wasn’t able to. He picked up his fourth foul with 6:21 to go in the game. Fox thought about taking him out then to preserve him for the final moments. Then again, that might have proven to be too big of a risk considering how valuable of a scorer Frazier is.
“I figured J.J. Frazier would rather die on that court than not be out there trying to win,” Fox said. “So I left him in. We made one little shift defensively, traded him and Turtle (Jackson), and he was able to finish the game without the foul.”
Shortly after that, Frazier was fouled and missed only attempt at the line, which occurred at the 6:02 mark of the second half. Missing the second attempt, Frazier caught LSU sleeping and tipped the ball in, giving him 12 points on 11 free-throw attempts.
“He did something (Saturday) he’s never done, which is tip in his own free-throw miss,” Fox said. “That’s hard to do.”
When LSU took an 80-77 lead, Frazier drove to the lane and drew attention before dumping the ball off to forward Derek Ogbeide, who put the ball in the basket.
On the other end, with LSU holding onto an 80-79 lead, Georgia became a fortunate bunch as LSU was unable to tip in a missed basket on three attempts, with the ball going out of bounds off of a Tigers’ player.
With only 6.7 seconds remaining, everyone in Stegeman Coliseum – including LSU head coach Johnny Jones – knew what was coming. The Tigers prepared to stop Frazier, who weaved his way through some defenders before driving to his left and to the hoop. He was then fouled by Duop Reath, who did appear to get his body on Frazier on the layup attempt.
With 1.6 seconds left, and the pressure mounting, and with only Frazier knowing exactly the damage the morning's virus had done to him, he stepped up for two free throws with the game on the line.
Teammate Juwan Parker couldn’t look as he stood in the opposite direction on the other end of the floor.
“Yeah, a little bit nervous,” Parker said with a slight chuckle. “I don’t like watching stuff like that. I got confidence in my man but I couldn’t watch. I was just waiting for the crowd to react.”
Sophomore guard Turtle Jackson kept his eyes on Frazier at the line.
“I can’t wait for them to go in,” Jackson said when asked what he was thinking in that moment. “I know how hard he works and how many free throws he shoots every day. I’m sitting there knowing that it’s going to go in.”
Each shot swished through the net, giving Georgia an 81-80 lead. LSU inbounded the ball across the floor, to which Ogbeide intercepted and was subsequently fouled. He made one of two free throws, with the ensuing LSU desperation heave missing.
After the win, Frazier was unavailable for interviews as he went straight to see the trainers.
Frazier’s now the eighth all-time scorer in program history with 1,512 points. By dishing out eight assists against LSU, Frazier moved into fifth place all-time with 407. He’s leaving quite the legacy, which began four years ago after being an unheralded recruit who only held one Power 5 offer at Georgia.
Fox certainly believes his star guard has accomplished a lot during his time at Georgia. Perhaps more will come in the ensuing weeks.
Reflecting on what he has gone on to do, Fox offered up a little nugget about how Frazier’s perception has changed from when he signed the two-star guard out of Faith Baptist Christian in Glennville.
“I think he’s had a remarkable career,” Fox said. “I should’ve saved all the hate mail when I signed him.”