Even with Yante Maten back, Georgia still relied heavily on J.J. Frazier down the stretch today in Nashville. With the game tied at 47-47 and a little over 6 minutes remaining, Frazier asserted himself on a day in which UGA’s offense was rather stagnant and scored 8 of his team’s final 12 points. J.J. notched 6 of those 8 points at the free throw line as he attacked the teeth of the Tennessee defense in the latter part of this one.
But all of Frazier’s efforts could have been for not if he and his teammates hadn’t held strong on the Vols’ final possession. Trailing 59-57, Tennessee had a chance to tie or take the lead, but the Dawgs forced the Vols offense outside the three-point line, and Admiral Schofield’s attempt from beyond the arc fell short. Tennessee’s decision to not go back inside to freshman Grant Williams, who had been heating up over the final minutes of this contest, will certainly be a decision that coach Rick Barnes will revisit when he watches tape. Either way, UGA held on for the 59-57 win and earned another rematch with Kentucky on Friday.
The biggest story of this game had to be the return of Yante Maten, who finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds. Maten looked rusty for sure as he committed 5 turnovers and a step slow at times defensively. But overall, he and the other Georgia bigs did an amazing job of containing Williams, who lit the Dawgs up for 30 points earlier this season in Knoxville; today, Williams only scored 6.
The Dawgs were led offensively by Frazier, who netted 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds, giving him an uncharacteristic double-double.
This game as whole was rather sloppy for Georgia, and they were fortunate to get the win. The Dawgs looked incredibly clunky on offense as they turned the ball over 15 times and attempted only 46 field goals (of which they made 43.5%). Much of Georgia’s struggles on offense can most likely be attributed to a combination of first game jitters along with the task of working Maten back into the rotation. As good as Yante is and as happy as everyone in the Bulldog nation is to have him back, this team did learn to play without him, and this game showed that they had to adjust to having the big man back in the lineup.
The Dawgs played much stronger defensively than they did last Saturday against Arkansas. Georgia’s matchup zone yielded 7 three-pointers to the Vols, but the Dawgs rotated much better on Tennessee’s movement and limited the number of easy looks for the Vols’ bigs. After giving up 48 points in the paint to Arkansas on Saturday, UGA held Tennessee to just 12 points in the lane. Furthermore, the Georgia defense limited Tennessee to under 32% from the floor.
Georgia plays at the same time tomorrow against Kentucky with an NCAA at-large bid on the line.