NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In a span of 24 seconds, J.J. Frazier kept Georgia’s NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
After making a running floater to tie the game up, Frazier stripped the ball from South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell with two seconds remaining. Frazier was promptly fouled and went to the free-throw line.
His first free-throw went in. After a timeout, Frazier stepped to the line and missed the second attempt on purpose – which he said was a “joint decision” between he and head coach Mark Fox. The strategy worked to perfection as it put South Carolina in a scramble situation, with Mindaugas Kacinas throwing his outlet pass to Georgia guard Charles Mann. As a result, Georgia won 65-64.
The Bulldogs (19-12) defeated South Carolina (24-8) for the third time this season and will meet Kentucky on Saturday in the SEC Tournament semifinals.
Frazier finished the game with 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting.
THREE WHO MATTERED
Frazier: Frazier was Georgia’s hero once again. What else is there to say about him? Even in a game where he started slow he found a way to tie the game at 64-64 with a running floater after splitting two South Carolina defenders. He then stripped Thornwell on the other end and got fouled. He hit the game-winning free throw and helped put Georgia in the semifinals.
Maten: Maten had a good game offensively in what turned into a slugfest in the post. He finished with 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting and brought down a game-high 12 rebounds.
Thornwell: With Michael Carrera out with a right hip injury, Georgia’s focus turned to stopping Thornwell. As it turns out, he was the one guy Georgia could not slow down. Thornwell finished the game with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting while making 3 of his 7 3-point attempts.
J.J. Frazier at the end of the game. That is all.
Will to win: Does anyone remember what it was like six games ago against Auburn, when it definitely seemed like Georgia’s season was wrapped up? Back when the NIT was even a pipe dream? Georgia has since reeled off five consecutive wins and is now in the SEC Tournament semifinals. Three of Georgia’s 19 wins have come against South Carolina, a team many analysts think is definitely in the NCAA Tournament. A lot has changed over the past three weeks. A lot of that has to do with Georgia’s attitude, which has clearly picked up in intensity.
Edwards’ game: Against Mississippi State it was Kenny Paul Geno coming up with big plays down the stretch. On Friday, it was freshman center Mike Edwards, who played a great game defensively in the second half. He had a crucial block late in the second half and was a strong force in the interior.
The first comeback: Georgia started sluggish as it took a while to get into a rhythm. But thanks to an 8-0 run to close the first half, the Bulldogs were able to cut South Carolina’s lead to 29-26. Georgia’s final four points of the run came off of free throws.
Overcoming shooting woes: Somehow, Georgia took this game despite shooting 38.9 percent from the field, which can be attributed to a 28-percent first-half performance. But Georgia only had three players make more than one field goal in the victory. Those were Frazier, Maten and Charles Mann. Kenny Gaines went 1-of-6 shooting and finished with only 7 points.
History made: Georgia has now beaten one team three times in a season for the first time since the 1983-84 season. Then, the Bulldogs defeated Mississippi State on three occasions.
Bizarre first-half ending: With time winding down on the shot clock near the end of the first half, Frazier put up a shot that didn’t go in. The shot-clock horn sounded, which had everyone on the court think the first half had ended. The only one who realized time was still running was Georgia forward Kenny Paul Geno, who picked the ball up and dunked it with the first-half buzzer blowing. But on replay, Geno didn’t release the ball in time so the basket did not count.
Quick calls: Gaines felt the burn of the referee crew’s whistles quick as he was called for two fouls in the first minute of the game. With Georgia then struggling, Fox had to turn back to Gaines with under 15 minutes to go in the half.
THEY SAID IT
Frazier on the final sequence: “They carried me throughout the game. South Carolina always plays good defense against me. They always make it tough on me. I just wanted at the end to make a play for us, whether it was a pass or a shot.”
Gaines on Frazier’s performance: “I mean, J.J.’s just a great player. As Yante said, he plays with so much passion and intensity, it kind of trickles down to the rest of us. For him to be out there to lead us tonight, it just made everybody else’s job easier.”
Fox on Frazier missing the second free throw at the end of the game: “We waited until after the first free throw when we had a lead, two seconds to go. A 3 beats you whether you’re up two or up one. And you put them in position to rebound when the clock starts, as soon as they touch the ball, and we’re matched up to cover them. So we did miss the second one on purpose.”
Thornwell on fouling Frazier after he was stripped of the ball: “Coach called a play and the plan was to get a shot. Coach believed in me. I mean, I didn’t know the situation, which is a mental mistake by me because I usually know the timing of the situation. I thought we were down when I turned the ball over. SO it was like a reaction to go for the ball. But there’s no excuse and I let my team down. That’s it.”
Georgia will face No. 2 seed Kentucky in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament on Saturday.