ATHENS — J.J. Frazier woke up Saturday morning feeling sick. When he met up with an athletic trainer, they thought he had the flu. Georgia’s health center was closed, so one of the best players in Georgia basketball history, statistically speaking at least, was taken to a local urgent care facility.
The tests for the flu were negative. So Frazier went home and took the court a few hours later.
“A lot of times you play your best game when you’re sick,” head coach Mark Fox said.
There are dwindling chances for people to see one of the more special players in Georgia history. He’s going out very loudly: Twenty-nine points on Saturday night, including the game-winning free throws with 1.6 seconds left, rescuing Georgia from what would have been a devastating loss to woeful LSU. Instead it kept its postseason hopes alive with an 82-80 win.
Frazier has now scored 36, 28 and 29 points in the three games since the team’s other star, Yante Maten, went out with a sprained knee. (The 36 points was against Kentucky, when Maten was injured 95 seconds into the game.)
Perspective: Frazier was a lightly-regarded, 5-foot-10 recruit out of south Georgia four years ago. He has now statistically become one of the better players in school history, ranking eighth all-time in scoring, fifth in assists, and in the top 10 in a plethora of other categories.
“I should’ve saved all the hate mail I got when I signed him,” Fox said. “I think people admire J.J. and have great respect for him. Hopefully he will feel the love from our fans on Wednesday night.”
That would be senior night against Auburn, a game that still matters for Georgia’s NCAA hopes, thanks to Frazier’s rescue effort on Saturday.
Amazing factoid: Frazier took 11 free throws on Saturday night. He made 10 of them, and on the one he missed he snuck in behind taller players and tipped it right back in.
“He did something tonight he’s never done, which is tip in his own free throw miss. That’s hard to do,” Fox said.
(If you’re waiting for a postgame quote from Frazier, you won’t get it. Because of his sickness, he was sent to the training room immediately after the game.)
The pivotal final play was a source of debate after the game. It wasn’t an obvious call. It appeared Frazier was bumped from behind, though not that hard. LSU head coach Johnny Jones made clear he didn’t like that call, nor the officials not calling Derek Ogbeide for traveling after he intercepted the ensuing downcourt heave.
“When you’re in a position like that you’d like to either see the kid finish the shot or we finish with a block, and allow the kids to finish it off,” Jones said. “If it’s a blatant foul you’ve got to make that call. Just like at the end you’ve got to play it out. If they travel when they catch it, and it’s a travel it’s called. But you have to play it out.”
Fox, who was on that side of the court when it happened, said “the official has the best look at it.” Georgia junior Juwan Parker smiled when asked about it.
“The ref called the foul so we’re going to go with a foul,” Parker said.
If Georgia did get a break with the call, maybe it’s because it was due. As a team it has felt robbed at several points this season, most notably the clock malfunction fiasco at Texas A&M, but also in the final few minutes at Florida.
“It all works out, man,” Parker said. “You call it the law of averages. It’s just like with shooting: You’re going to go back to the average. If you have a couple missed calls, you’re going to have a couple good calls.”
So perhaps it was inevitable that a call would go Georgia’s way at the end — or Frazier’s way. If the official was anticipating a call, giving Frazier star treatment, so to speak, then Frazier qualifies as a star. At least at Georgia.
Fox pointed out that Frazier “has never had a losing season here,” and that was clinched by this win. Georgia will have a fourth straight winning season for the first time since 2004.
“On a night where we didn’t think we were playing very well, J.J. just kept scrapping and clawing and carried us to victory,” Fox said. “He’s just such a great competitor. And at the moment of truth great competitors are usually at their best. And J.J. was that late — again.”