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J.J. Frazier hasn't given up on Georgia's NCAA Tournament dream
Georgia guard J.J. Frazier (30) drives to the hoop against South Carolina guard Duane Notice (10) during the first half of Thursday's game in Columbia, S.C. - photo by Sean Rayford

ATHENS — J.J. Frazier hasn’t given up on Georgia’s NCAA Tournament dream, even though the Bulldogs still face long odds entering their final regular-season game against Alabama.

Georgia (16-12, 9-8 Southeastern Conference) has won two straight games, including Thursday night’s 74-72 win at South Carolina.

The late-season surge may not be enough. Even if the Bulldogs stretch that modest streak to three straight wins by beating Alabama on Saturday, they still may have to win next week’s SEC Tournament to make the NCAA field.

The Bulldogs damaged their postseason outlook by losing three straight, including a particularly harmful loss at Auburn, before recovering with the wins over Mississippi and South Carolina.

Frazier and his high-scoring backcourt partner, Kenny Gaines, refuse to accept the idea that Georgia can’t reach the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.

“Like I said last week, we don’t quit,” Frazier said after Thursday night’s game. “You can’t count us out or write us off.”

The undersized Frazier (5-10, 155) scored 20 or more points in three straight games before approaching a triple-double with 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists against the Gamecocks. Gaines led Georgia with 20 points while making four of eight 3-pointers.

Georgia is assured of at least a .500 finish in the SEC for the fourth straight year — a streak unprecedented in school history.

The bad news is the Bulldogs can’t match last year’s record — 21-12, 11-7 SEC — that produced the NCAA bid.

With its No. 69 NCAA RPI, Alabama (17-12, 8-9) is closer to the NCAA Tournament bubble. Georgia improved its RPI from 83 to 75 but still appears to be on track for the NIT.

Just don’t expect Frazier and Gaines to accept that NIT fate as a certainty. Frazier said they take their inspiration from coach Mark Fox.

“We take our identity from our coach,” Frazier said. “If he don’t quit, we don’t quit. So no matter how high the mountain looks or how tough the battle is, we’re going to find the way to get the job done.”

The two guards give Georgia one of the league’s best outside scoring tandems. Frazier, a junior, is averaging 16.4 points.

Gaines, a senior, averages 13.7 points. Forward Yante Maten adds inside balance with 15.8 points per game.

Gaines was hot in the first half against South Carolina with 14 points. Frazier had 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the final 20 minutes.

“He makes my job easy,” said Gaines of Frazier. “All I have to do is be in the right spot at the right time. If he doesn’t have an open look he always finds me.”

Georgia will play Saturday for its third straight winning record in the SEC for only the second time in school history (1995-97).

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