ATHENS — By the time J.J. Frazier sat on a stool in the media room, there had been nearly a half-hour to cool off. It didn’t matter. Georgia’s senior guard was still mad. At himself.
“I blew the game for us. It’s that simple,” Frazier said.
He pointed right at stat line: Six turnovers, as Georgia fell at home to South Carolina, 67-61, on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs (9-5 overall, 1-1 in the SEC) dropped one they may end up needing come March.
“When my team needed me, I wasn’t there,” Frazier said.
That included one of the game’s biggest moments: Trailing by three in the final minute, Frazier tried to get the ball to Yante Maten, who Frazier said had good position.
But Frazier threw it to Maten’s right hand, thinking that’s where Maten would be reaching, but instead he was leaning left. The ball was knocked away and towards the sideline, where it went out on Maten.
“Ultimately that’s on me. I should have read the play,” Frazier said. “I just assumed that’s where he’s going to be. Ultimately that turnover more than anything basically sealed the game.”
Maten also committed six turnovers, but Frazier gave him a pass, saying “it’s hard for a big (man) to play on the perimeter as much as he did.” A guard is used to it and shouldn’t commit six turnovers, Frazier insisted.
Maten disagreed with Frazier’s self-blame. Both of them could have played better, he said. Either way, Maten agreed, it was a setback for a Georgia team that had reinvigorated its season with last week’s win at Auburn.
“It hurts a lot, because it was definitely a winnable game,” Maten said. “We got to a position where we needed to be, and we didn’t capitalize off it.”
For all the turnover problems, the biggest play may have been giving up a quick offensive rebound: South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell put back his own miss on a drive in the final minute, right before the critical turnover. If Georgia stops the drive or gets the rebound, it has the ball down one.
“We just didn’t make the key plays that we needed to make,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said.
Fox, asked if Frazier was right to point the finger at himself, said that while “other mistakes were made,” the turnover number was “too high” for both Frazier and Maten.
There continues to be a lot of defensive attention on Maten and Frazier, and things aren’t coming easy for them, especially Frazier. A consistent third or fourth scoring option hasn’t emerged to take pressure off, and the season is almost halfway over.
“If I was coaching against our team, I would try and guard J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten. And I don’t care who else is on the court, those are the two guys that were All-SEC players, and all year long, they’re going to get the focus of the defense. And that will be the case every night.”
Frazier normally excels on drives and outside shooting. But he struggled to get going in this one, going 1-for-6 from beyond the arc and needing to get free throws. Nine of his 16 points came at the line. South Carolina, burned by Frazier three times last year, had him blanketed the entire game.
“We knew the game was going to be ugly, we tried to get clean looks, for the most part we did,” Frazier said. “My teammates played well. They did what they were supposed to do. I didn’t show up, and ultimately this game falls on me.”