NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Heart over height.
That phrase sums J.J. Frazier up in a nutshell. It's how he was described after yet another brilliant performance, highlighted by another clutch sequence, in Friday night’s 65-64 win over South Carolina.
Frazier helped spark comebacks in both the first and second halves en route to his team-high 20 points. Thing is, he didn’t begin the game shooting well and had to overcome an early spell. But how he finished the game could go down in Georgia lore, especially if it winds up sneaking the Bulldogs (19-12) into the NCAA Tournament.
The first part of Frazier’s end-game heroics was nothing different than he’s done on the offensive side all year. Needing a big bucket, Frazier split two defenders and put up a high-arcing floater over 6-foot-11 center Laimonas Chatkevicius that swished through the net with 24 seconds to go.
Game tied, 64-64.
South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell then dribbled the ball up the court, ran some clock and began looking to create his own shot to win the game. But with less than five seconds to go in the game, Frazier picked his pocket and stole the ball. Thornwell, in reactionary mode, fouled Frazier as he thought Georgia was actually leading at the time.
Frazier let out a steady stream of emotion, pumping his left fist in the air and screaming loudly.
"We invest a lot," Frazier said. "It’s more emotional to show my teammates that we battled and got to position to where we want to be. That’s the no-quit we have within ourselves."
The play put Frazier on the free-throw line with 2.1 seconds remaining. He made the first. Following a timeout, he missed the second on purpose, a decision he and head coach Mark Fox decided on in the huddle. The strategy worked to perfection as Mindaugas Kacinas came down with the rebound and had to find an outlet with barely any time left. His pass landed in Charles Mann’s arms and Georgia advanced to the SEC Tournament semifinals, where it will take on No. 2 seed Kentucky.
"It’s heart over height definitely in that case," Maten said. "He told me, when he got back to the locker room, he said he knew what he was going to do. Credit J.J. for being a great defender as well as an offensive player."
Georgia, six games removed from an embarrassing loss at Auburn, has now won five in a row. It’s SEC Tournament hopes have gone from dead to breathing in the span of three weeks.
The Bulldogs have Frazier to thank for this sudden turnaround. He’s made these kind of plays all year long. And when Georgia needed it the most, with the faint hopes of being an NCAA Tournament team on the line, he came through in a major way.
At 5-10, Frazier is quite often the smallest player on the court. And it never seems to matter.
"You can have all the skill in the world," Frazier said. "If you don’t have that temperament inside you, you’re not going to be the best you can be. That’s what I strive to be. I play with emotion, I play with heart. It trickles down to my teammates."