Dean Legge/Dawg Post

Maten Returns; UGA Bounces Vols

NASHVILLE - J.J. Frazier scored 17 points and grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds to lead the Georgia Bulldogs past Tennessee, 59-57, on Thursday afternoon in the second round of the SEC Tournament.

Two free throws from Frazier made it 59-56 with 1:36 to play in the game. After over a minute of scoreless play from the two teams, the Volunteers went 1-of-2 from the line to cut the lead to two with 22 seconds left. The Bulldogs missed a pair of free throws on the other end, giving Tennessee a shot to win the game, but the three-point attempt off of a disjointed possession came up empty and Georgia sealed the win.

“If you’re not in rhythm,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said, “it's not going to be nearly as good enough a look, and we felt like they weren’t in rhythm. We were able to count on our defense late in the game to come up with a stop."

For Frazier, this was his first double-double of the season. Georgia (19-13, 9-9 SEC) also got 12 points from Yante Maten, who played for the first time since injuring his knee against Kentucky on Feb. 18. 

"I was a little unsure how we would go from playing how we did the last few weeks to how we did three weeks ago [before Maten got hurt],” Fox said. "We turned the ball over way too much, and hopefully tomorrow we will do a little better in that area.”

The Bulldogs were able to hold Tennessee (16-16, 8-10) scoreless for the game’s first four minutes and 14 seconds and got out to a 5-0 lead. The Volunteers went eight trips to start the game without a point and missed their first six shots. Maten checked into the game for the first time just over two minutes in, and a few possessions later, William Jackson II found him for a three-pointer at the top of the key. Tennessee grabbed the lead for the first time at 10-9, and the slow offensive output continued for both teams as that score stayed intact through the 10-minute mark. 

The scoring picked up a bit in the next few minutes, as Georgia was sparked by a Pape Diatta three-pointer in transition. Frazier was driving into a crowded area, looked back and found Diatta for an open look. The shot gave Georgia the lead and was part of a 7-0 run that put the Bulldogs ahead by four. Tennessee took back the lead, and another jumper from Diatta later in the half cut it to a 27-26 deficit going into the break. The first period featured four ties and seven lead changes.

Just as they did to start the game, the Bulldogs opened the second half with a strong defensive effort. This time, the Volunteers went more than three minutes without a point and Georgia went on a 6-0 run. Derek Ogbeide scored four points in the half’s first two minutes after being held scoreless in the opening period. 

With under six minutes to go, after a fast-paced pair of empty trips from each team, Frazier found E’Torrion Wilridge slashing through lane for a layup to put Georgia ahead, 53-52, with 5:09 remaining. Maten went to the line for a pair of free throws following the final media timeout but missed both and the Bulldogs' lead remained at one. About a minute later, Frazier grabbed his 10th rebound following a missed Tennessee three-pointer and drove the length of the floor for a layup. Despite the game’s tight, back-and-forth nature, Frazier was able to keep his team under control. 

“He has meant so much to our program,” said Fox of Frazier. "He’s so valuable. We left the game with timeouts in our pocket because he manages the game so well.” 

Georgia led by three points until another pair of free throws from the Volunteers cut it to a score of 57-56 with 1:48 left. The next possession is when Frazier hit his seventh and eighth free throws to make it 59-56. Georgia was able to hold on despite not scoring again from that point forward thanks to the strong defensive stand on the final possession.

Georgia will be back in action on Friday, taking on the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats in the quarterfinals. The teams have met twice this season, with Kentucky taking both by single-digit margins. Friday’s game is set for a 1 p.m. ET tip and will be televised by the SEC Network.

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