In recent weeks, Georgia’s players have told each other its misfortunes will turn around. The ball will bounce in their favor. Eventually, wins will start coming.
Entering Saturday’s game with 11 losses, it was apparent hoping for a change to occur wouldn’t be enough.
Senior guard J.J. Frazier tweaked the dialogue to his teammates following Tuesday’s defeat against Florida.
“I told them we have to make it turn our way,” Frazier said.
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Trailing by 14 points with 15:13 to play in the second half at Tennessee, Frazier reiterated that thought during a timeout. If Georgia was to win, the players themselves needed to step up. From that moment, Frazier put the team on his shoulders. Part of it was out of necessity. Star forward Yante Maten had picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench for a long duration of game minutes.
Another part of it was the fact he simply wanted to get his team back in the win column.
Frazier sparked the Bulldogs in an instance during Georgia’s 76-75 win over Tennessee. Twenty of Frazier’s 29 points came in the second half, with Frazier weaving his way through defenders to angle the ball with spin off the backboard and into the net numerous times. The Volunteers (14-11, 6-6 SEC) never seemed to have an answer.
Frazier’s most crucial play came with less than 30 seconds in regulation. He crossed the ball over at least twice while cutting through Tennessee’s defense in jagged lines like a razor. He wiggled past Tennessee’s Grant Williams and put up a short shot while fading away. He drew contact from Williams with the ball banking off the glass and falling through the hoop. Frazier made the subsequent free throw as Georgia (14-11, 5-7) took a five point lead with 20.6 seconds left to play.
“I wasn’t going to let us quit,” Frazier said. “I wasn’t going to let us lay down. Sometimes you can give everything you have and it’s not good enough. I wanted us to continue to give everything we have regardless of the outcome. I wanted to lead the charge when we got down late because I wanted to show them we don’t quit. That’s not who we are. That’s not who our coach is. We rallied.”
Georgia head coach Mark Fox said Frazier’s will to win became contagious on the bench. That helped get others involved to make plays. One of Frazier’s six assists went to E’Torrion Wilridge in the left corner for a 3-pointer. Frazier also assisted both of Tyree Crump’s second-half 3-point makes.
“J.J. had to be the senior and really lead our team,” Fox said. “He made a couple of plays and got everybody else believing. He certainly led the charge and everybody followed suit. That’s what seniors should do.”
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes essentially admitted he had no answer for Frazier.
“One of the hardest things to defend, now, is a guy who can dribble it, snake it, and get here, get this. It’s really hard,” Barnes said. “He’s a tough player to defend. You look at him, he had 29 points but he had six assists. He accounted for a lot of their points.”
After losing three games in a row, it was clear Frazier wanted this one badly. But it sure seemed dim when Maten was relegated to the bench with foul trouble.
Frazier put the game on his shoulders. He’ll likely have to do the same in coming games.
“I didn’t necessarily want to shoot it every time but I wanted to make plays, the right plays, to get the team shots and get them the right looks,” Frazier said. “You’ve got to give my teammates credit. They made the big shots and plays when they needed to.”