The Georgia guard was hottest dog in Humphrey Coliseum, scorching nets for 37 points in a 72-66 victory. With the win the visiting Dogs left 13-5 and 4-2 SEC with a valuable road win.
Coming off consecutive conference wins, defeat was hard for the home Dogs (9-10, 2-4 SEC) to accept. “I felt we played a good game overall,” forward Roquez Johnson said. “But simple stuff cost us the game.”
Frazier certainly made it look easy. “What’d he do, hit ten or eleven threes?” State’s I.J. Ready asked. It was only seven makes, but that was as many times as he tried from the arc, too. The perfect performance at long-range seemed even stronger than the stat sheet, where Frazier was 12-of-14 on all shots.
“Tonight was J.J.’s turn,” UG Coach Mark Fox said. “He was big. It was good to see him do it in a game.”
The coach’s comment reflected that Frazier came in averaging 9.1 points. By his own admission the sophomore has been much more a passer and defender. But after sticking a trey at 12:56 of the first half Frazier turned into more than one option.
He became the go-to guy. “I shot my first one and it felt well. I was wanting to take good shots after that. And in a few situations I had to take a long one, but I knew it was going in.”
So did everyone else by then, as guarded or not Frazier was good. Ready said scouting reported Frazier could shoot the ball so it wasn’t a complete surprise. “And that’s what he did. We just didn’t get to him in our zone the majority of the time.”
Or, get to Frazier on what might have been the day’s decisive play. It was a miss oddly enough, as with a 69-66 difference at 0:29 Frazier left the front end of a 1-and-1 situation short. His four teammates were blocked-out…but not the shooter.
“When it left my hand I knew I shot it hard. Once I saw it as a good bounce I went and got it. I used my instincts.” He also drew a fast foul and this time in a two-shot opportunity was good on both at 0:26. At the other end after Ready fumbled looking for some sort of open trey, it was Frazier coming up with the loose ball for one last foul and one more point.
Kenny Gaines was the only other Georgian in double-digits with ten points, as the rest of the squad mustered just 25 between them. It was enough to support Frazier though, as he had the highest point output against MSU since South Carolina’s Benton Williams scored 28 in March 2013.
Frazier’s unexpected afternoon spoiled a career game from one of the home Dogs. Johnson just about single-handedly kept Mississippi State in contention, with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Ready was no slouch from outside himself, 4-of-7 at the arc en route to 12 points while guard Craig Sword came off the Bulldog bench for 13; eight of that on nine free throw attempts as he drew fouls by attacking the paint.
“I thought this boiled down to two things,” Coach Rick Ray said. “One, is our inability to finish at the rim. We had so many opportunities we just didn’t do that. And we just didn’t carry out some assignments. We let Frazier get loose.”
The twist was that a big part of Ray’s defensive plan worked out even better than hoped. Georgia is a post-oriented offense and did take the ball inside instantly for the day’s first basket. But from there, the MSU frontcourt gave an excellent effort in the zone with one-on-one stops first and good help afterwards. UG’s starting big men were just 2-of-10 shooting and only got to the foul stripe three times.
“Coach emphasized how physical Georgia was,” Johnson said. “I feel I’m a physical guy myself so I brought it to them. Gavin (Ware) was physical too and we brought it in the paint.”
If not for Frazier, then, Georgia would have been in deep trouble. Especially as Ready got hot at the arc with three long makes. “Coach told me get aggressive and score.” But Frazier first steadied his squad, then took control for a 36-31 halftime lead.
After falling behind 46-34, the home team did rally as Frazier had to sit down for a spell. Johnson and Sword went right at the rim for points and/or fouls, and better Bulldog rebounding (42 to 32 in the final tally) gave enough second shots and chances.
Leading only 49-46, Frazier subbed back in at 12:48. Over a minute later he delivered maybe the clutch make of the game, a trey of course, to stem State’s surge. At last, State went to really tight contact with Frazier as Ready was almost inside the jersey. Ready said this was agreed to try “the last four or five minutes. He was the only one scoring.”
At least until two minutes were left. Consecutive treys by guard Fred Thomas and Ready’s fourth longball suddenly had the lead down to 65-64. This time Georgia stayed with the inside game and drew fouls for Charles Mann and Nemanja Djurisic. Their four good free throws were enough to keep control, even after Frazier’s missed front-end.
But given the break, State lost it just as quick by not getting to the carom in the right corner. “That’s assignment,” Johnson said. “Didn’t nobody get the shooter and that kind of cost us the game.”
“If we get that rebound do we win?” Ray said. “You don’t know but you at least have a chance.” Perhaps switching the defense to stick on Frazier sooner might have given a chance, too. Ray didn’t think so.
“They’ve got so many good players if you face-guard Frazier, Charles Mann has an opportunity to drive,” the coach said. “They have so many good post players.”
Perhaps so. What Georgia unquestionably did have was a sizzling shooter to offset the rest of his squad going just 11-of-33 from the field. And getting whipped on the glass. And with some State players giving strong performances. All that, and still Ray’s team could not put pieces together to maintain their short but encouraging win streak.
“I felt everybody competed,” Johnson said. “But we just have to figure it out.”