Georgia escapes Tennessee 59-57 in SEC; Kentucky is next
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Finding a rhythm took the whole game for Georgia, even with the eagerly awaited return of co-scoring leader Yante Maten.
Senior guard J.J. Frazier also struggled initially before getting in sync in time to lead the Bulldogs further in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Frazier scored four of his 17 points down the stretch, and Georgia withstood several Tennessee chances to rally in the final 30 seconds to hold on for a 59-57 victory on Thursday.
A seesaw game with 12 lead changes and eight ties finally began tilting the Bulldogs’ way on Juwan Parker’s steal and dunk for a 55-53 lead with 4:18 remaining. Frazier followed with a big layup and two free throws for a three-point lead that held up despite two chances for the Volunteers to rally.
“J.J. was a little bit out of sorts in the first half,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “He’s been a great player for us and has earned the right to play through some tough minutes. And late in the game, he was great.”
Grant Williams made 1 of 2 free throws before Georgia’s Mike Edwards missed two foul shots with 23 seconds left to give Tennessee time for a final chance to at least tie. The Volunteers passed up a couple of possible shots before finding an open Admiral Schofield, but his 3-pointer with one second left glanced off the rim.
“We came down to the last possession so we can drive it and get a 2,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “We probably turned down one or two (shots) before that, but we ended up with him with a great look. And I hate it for him because nobody works harder than him.”
Schofield’s miss allowed the eighth-seeded Bulldogs (19-13) to advance to Friday’s quarterfinal against top-seeded Kentucky.
Frazier also had 10 rebounds while junior forward Yante Maten returned from a four-game injury absence to score 12 points and grab five rebounds for Georgia, which went 3-1 without him.
“The ball wasn’t going in, so I just had to make plays (in) other ways,” said Frazier, who made all eight free throws en route to his third career double-double. “I just started trying to get to the line and trying to see the ball go in and make different types of plays.”
Jordan Bone had 14 points and Lamonte Turner 13 for ninth-seeded Tennessee (16-16), which has lost four of five overall and fell to Georgia for the fourth straight time.
THE BIG PICTURE
Tennessee: The Volunteers shot just 33 percent (19 of 58) and were beaten 39-29 on the boards. But their final possession seemed unorganized and led to Schofield’s final shot that appeared to be rushed. Leading scorer Robert Hubbs III managed just six points and three rebounds in 29 minutes.
Georgia: Maten played with a brace on his sprained right knee but provided huge scoring and rebounding boosts for the Bulldogs, who shot 44 percent and won despite committing 15 turnovers. They won the inside scoring battle 24-14.
NOT TOO RUSTY
Fox said hoped to play Maten for 22 to 24 minutes but ended up getting 26 in his return from a sprained knee. The brace didn’t seem to affect him as he made several spins and appeared to tiptoe along the midcourt line to keep a ball on Georgia’s end.
“It didn’t click or (create) any pain at during the game, so I’m just thanking God,” said Maten, whose 18.7 points-per-game average tied Frazier for the team lead.
Tennessee freshman guard and Nashville native Bone turned in another impressive performance in his latest homecoming, hitting 5 of 8 shots with four 3-pointers to keep the Volunteers close. He scored their final eight points with two 3s for a 27-26 lead at the break.
Bone — who scored a season-high 23 points with four 3s at Vanderbilt on Jan. 14 — added two more from long range in the first 10 minutes of the second half. But he didn’t score again and missed a jumper with 1:10 left.
Tennessee: Postseason to be determined.
Georgia: Faces top-seeded Kentucky on Friday.
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