The Georgia men’s basketball team fell to Belmont 78-69 in the opening round of the NIT on Wednesday night at Stegeman Coliseum. The game marked the final game for seniors J.J. Frazier, Kenny Paul Geno, Houston Kessler and Brandon Young
Frazier scored 29 points in the matchup, and yet it just wasn’t enough to beat Belmont. It marked his 13th game with 20 or more points this season, and he not only led Georgia in scoring but was the leading scorer for both teams on the night. Tyree Crump and William Jackson II both scored ten points. On a positive note, Georgia committed a season-low five turnovers, but it didn’t seem to make a difference in the end.
Georgia had to play the game without Yante Maten and Juwan Parker as both fell to injury. Maten, the team’s second-leading scorer, suffered a setback from his knee injury after pushing through it in last weekend’s game against Kentucky the SEC Tournament. Parker suffered a partial tear to his right Achilles. Without those two on the court, Georgia had to figure out a new lineup for the first time this season.
During the first half, the game opened with Belmont on an 11-4 run before the Bulldogs quickly answered, tying it at 13. However, Georgia struggled to get a shot to fall going on a 0-and-5 stint. The Bruins settled into their game early from three-point land, a bad omen for things to come as they are nearly a 30 three-point attempt team per game. They made five three-pointers with just over 10 minutes in and the largest lead they held in the first was nine points.
The second-half was all Bruins once again as they were deadly from downtown. Belmont opened the half up going 5-of-5 from beyond the arc. They led 54-43 early on after the impressive three-point streak. Frazier cut the lead to nine after going 1-for-2 from the line. The miss by Frazier marked his first in 45 consecutive free throw attempts, second-longest in SEC history and five short of the record of 50 held by Kentucky’s Travis Ford for the 1992-1993 season.
Georgia trailed 68-54 until Frazier scored a quick six points to decrease the deficit to eight, but Frazier on his own wasn’t enough to hold off the high powered Bruins’ offense. Belmont led by ten going into the final media timeout and the Bulldogs got within seven in the final four minutes. Georgia just couldn’t close the gap, especially with Belmont finishing the game 14-of-31 from the perimeter. The Bruins also out-rebounded the Bulldogs 35-32.
“We just could not find a lineup that could get stops and also play offense. We were disjointed, and Belmont has a great shooting team. We couldn’t settle on a defense that could slow them down on the three-point line. They had two spurts, one to start the second half and one in the middle of the first, that they knocked in some three-point shots and that was the difference in the game.”
The Bulldogs finished the season 19-15 and sent Frazier away as Georgia’s highest free-throw percentage shooter in Georgia history at 84.1 percent. The rate broke Jerry Eppling’s record of 82.2 percent. The Georgia men’s basketball season for 2016-2017 finished with Frazier getting a standing ovation from Stegeman chanting, “Thank You J.J!” The loss may have been heartbreaking but to send a player like Frazier out with that respect was a pleasure to witness.
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