ATHENS – Five observations as Georgia held on to beat Arkansas, 76-73, in overtime on Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum.
1. FRAZIER STARS DESPITE A MIGRAINE
J.J. Frazier added to his growing list of amazing games while playing through a migraine headache. He scored a game-high 26 points, including the last two points of the game on free throws with 6.5 seconds left, and the game-tying lay-up in the final minute of regulation.
“It was amazing,” senior guard Kenny Gaines said. “It just shows what kind of character he has and what kind of heart he has as a player.”
It wasn’t clear when the migraine kicked in. Frazier was unable to come to postgame interviews. Head coach Mark Fox said he found out about it a couple minutes into the game.
“We were very concerned. But he is such a competitor,” Fox said. “If every competitor could have the heart of that guy they’d have an advantage from the start.”
“He was pretty sick,” junior guard Kenny Paul Geno said. “My third year with J.J., I’ve kinda known now he can do anything, he’s kinda like Superman.”
2. GUARDS COME UP BIG IN OVERTIME
This one had tense moments, and looked close to lost for Georgia at several points. When they were needed most, however, Georgia’s veterans made the big plays.
Of course, not before some more tense moments at the free throw line.
Gaines and Charles Mann, the two senior guards who had up-and-down games to that point, came up huge midway through overtime. Gaines hit a driving lay-up to put Georgia up one, then Mann hit a long pull-up jumper, making it 70-67. That was followed by Frazier’s driving lay-up from the left side while being fouled. But he missed the free throw.
That set the tone for horrible free throw shooting in the final minute for Georgia: First Gaines went 0-for-2, then Mann went 0-for-2 with 11.2 seconds left. That gave Arkansas, trailing by three, another chance.
But Fox instructed his team to foul, sending Jabril Durham to the line with seven seconds left. He made both, and it was a one-point game.
Then Frazier was fouled. He rolled in the first one. Then the second as well. Arkansas inbounded with 6.5 seconds left. But the Razorbacks put up a wild shot that went nowhere, and Georgia officially survived.
“It was just a high-level game,” Gaines said. “You exert a lot of energy, and it just comes down to who has the most juice at the end.”
This was a game Georgia (now 11-6 overall, 4-3 in the SEC) needed in hand given the schedule ahead. Next week it plays at LSU (5-2 in the SEC after winning at Alabama on Saturday) and Baylor (ranked No. 13 in this week’s AP poll.)
3. CRAZY FINISH TO REGULATION
The final minute of regulation saw a series of game-turning plays – and blown opportunities – for both teams.
First, Mann turned the ball over at the top of the key with the game tied. Then Gaines came from behind to tip the ball away, only to be called for a foul, sending Arkansas’ Anton Beard to the line. He hit both to give Arkansas a two-point lead with 47.2 seconds left.
Frazier was fouled on the other end, sending the 86 percent free throw shooter to the line. But he missed both – only to have the Arkansas rebounder fall to the ground and travel. So Georgia re-inbounded the ball, and Frazier drove the lane for the game-tying basket with 17.6 seconds left.
After an Arkansas timeout, Geno pressured the inbounds pass, hitting it off a Razorback player’s fingertips and out of bounds. That gave Georgia the final possession, starting with 17 seconds left.
Fox called for a clear-out to give Frazier the last shot. But he couldn’t drive and tried a long 3, which missed.
“We got the look, the match-up we wanted,” Fox said of the play.
4. ABOUT THE FREE THROWS …
Free throws were a problem for both teams: Georgia finished 16-for-30 and Arkansas was 17-for-28.
“We probably were just tired,” Gaines said. “We played a lot of minutes tonight against a really good Arkansas team that runs a lot of motion, and they’re constantly on the moment.”
It was more out of character for Arkansas, which entered the game ranked second in the SEC in free throw percentage (.724). Georgia entered seventh, making 69.6 percent.
“I don’t think we’ve got a major problem there. It’s an area we need to continue to work on,” Fox said. “But it’s not an epidemic yet. But certainly tonight it almost cost us.”
5. REBOUNDING A PLUS
Georgia entered the game 9-0 when it either led or tied the other team in rebounding. Now it’s 10-0, and this time the Bulldogs dominated on the boards, 46-36.
Sophomore Yante Maten led as usual with 12 rebounds, but freshman Mike Edwards also chipped in seven off the bench, including six in the first half.
“Rebounding was really important,” Fox said. “It’s not been a strength of this team, even though it’s been a strength of our program for a number of years. This year it’s something we’ve battled and battled to improve on, and tonight it was something that really helped us win the game.”