ATHENS — The breeze blowing across Georgia on Wednesday night could have been attributed to a collective exhale from Bulldogs’ basketball fans as the horn sounded in Stegeman Coliseum.
Georgia basketball, at long last, ended an 8-year streak of futility against mighty Kentucky, snapping a 14-game losing streak to the Wildcats.
Coach Tom Crean put the last-second 63-62 win over Kentucky into context.
“When you beat Kentucky and it hasn’t been done in a while, it’s a benchmark,” said Crean, who last year scored only the second program road win over a Top 10 team in school history.
“They’re as premier of a program as there is in the country.”
Indeed, even with their recent struggles, the Wildcats’ had the No. 1 signing class in 2020 and remain the most talented team in the league.
Some 4,721 miles away in Italy on Wednesday night — Thursday morning for him — former Bulldogs’ basketball star J.J. Frazier celebrated his program’s victory.
“It was a relief, not only for Coach Tom Crean and his staff, but for everybody in Georgia,” said Frazier, a Glennview (Ga.) product who owns the UGA’s best career free-throw percentage and ranks in the program’s Top 10 in points, assists and steals.
“We showed we can beat them, and now we can take that momentum and use that in recruiting.”
The Bulldogs (9-4, 2-4 SEC) can build on that momentum at 2 p.m. on Saturday when they play host to Florida (7-4, 4-3) at Stegeman Coliseum.
Frazier, who played at Georgia from 2013-17, went 0-9 against Kentucky and admits he’s still haunted by close losses to Kentucky.
The 5-foot-10 Frazier scored a season-high 36 points in his final home game against the Wildcats, but he fell one basket short when his jump shot missed with 14 seconds left and UGA down 77-75 in an eventual 82-77 loss.
Earlier in Frazier’s senior season, Kentucky escaped with a 90-81 win that still bothers him.
“I had so many games where I was this close to beating a Top 10 Kentucky team,” Frazier said. “Twice my senior year. “I do everything I can at home … then, Malik Monk hits a fadeaway (In Lexington) to send it to overtime.
“Only that one game in my career, my last one against Kentucky, I regret,” said Frazier, who scored a team-high 23 points and had 3 steals, “I think about that game every month.”
Frazier, who averaged 18.2 points and 5.3 assists last season in Italy, said he keeps up with all of the Georgia teams closely and sometimes to a fault.
“I don’t think people understand, I bleed Georgia,” Frazier said on a recent Zoom call. “Georgia has lost to Alabama 3 or 4 times in football, and I’ll still bet on Georgia every time. I have genuine love.”
And for the rest of the regular season, at least, Frazier and the Bulldogs have bragging rights over Kentucky, as the SEC office assigned UGA just one game with the Wildcats.