Frazier's free throw lifts Georgia past South Carolina 65-64
TERESA M. WALKER
Mar. 12, 2016
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Georgia Bulldogs have been tested a lot this season by a tough schedule. Luckily, they also have junior guard J.J. Frazier.
Frazier hit 1 of 2 free throws with 2.1 seconds left, and Georgia rallied from an 11-point deficit to beat South Carolina 65-64 Friday night in the Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals for the Bulldogs' fifth-straight win.
The guard scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half in helping the Bulldogs rally.
"J.J.'s extremely competitive, and a lot of guys have unbelievable ability," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "But when the game's on the line or they're keeping score and the game's close, they don't get better. J.J. gets better because he has a great competitive nature."
The sixth-seeded Bulldogs (19-12) are back in the semifinals for a third-straight season, something only they and Kentucky can claim, and Georgia will play the 16th-ranked Wildcats on Saturday to have a chance at this league's automatic NCAA Tournament berth.
"He plays with so much passion and intensity, it kind of trickles down to the rest of us," Bulldogs guard Kenny Gaines said of Frazier.
Georgia trailed by as many as 11 points before beating South Carolina for the third time this season. The Bulldogs hit seven of their final eight free throws.
The third-seeded Gamecocks (24-8) led much of the game. Sindarius Thornwell scored 23 points, and Laimonas Chatkevicius added 14.
"Coming down the stretch, we made three mistakes on ball screen defense, and he made us pay all three times," South Carolina coach Frank Martin said of Frazier.
Frazier scored on a floater with 24 seconds left for the sixth tie of the game and fifth of the second half at 64. Thornwell had the ball with a chance to win the game with a bucket when Frazier stole the ball. Thornwell was called for a foul, sending Frazier to the line. Thornwell said he thought the Gamecocks trailed instead of being tied, so his reaction was to go for the ball.
"There's no excuse, and I let my team down," Thornwell said.
The Georgia guard missed his second attempt, Mindaugas Kacinas got the rebound and tried to throw it down the court where Mann caught it before flinging it up into the air in celebration as the Bulldogs beat South Carolina for the third time this season.
With these teams meeting for a third time this season, they combined for a physical and sloppy first half where Georgia had more turnovers (10) than made shots with South Carolina at least matching in both category with 11 of each.
South Carolina led 45-34 with 13:19 left. Mann hit a pair of free throws with 3:03 left to give Georgia its first lead at 60-59. South Carolina missed five of its final six shots.
The Gamecocks led 29-26 at halftime only after officials reviewed a dunk by Georgia forward Kenny Paul Geno and ruled he didn't beat the buzzer in a confusing end where players stopped, thinking the half was over with a couple seconds left.
Georgia: The Bulldogs outshot South Carolina at the line, hitting 20 of 27 compared to 10 of 15. ... The Bulldogs also had a 39-38 edge on the boards and outscored the Gamecocks 34-28 in the paint.
South Carolina: Michael Carrera, who missed the game with a hip injury, is listed as day-to-day. He averages 14.5 points and 7.7 rebounds. ... The Gamecocks beat Georgia for the first time in three games in this tournament.
Martin also took a moment to defend his Gamecocks' worthiness of an at-large NCAA Tournament berth. He noted they went undefeated in non-conference play and currently have 24 victories. They also tied for third in the SEC with 11 wins, and Martin said if anyone thinks they're not worthy, then there's a problem in this business.
"Are we going to start judging people based on a game in a conference tournament, or are we going to judge people on what they do in a six-month period?" Martin asked. "I think what we did in a six-month period is pretty good."
Georgia: No. 16 Kentucky on Saturday.
South Carolina: Likely NCAA Tournament berth.