Maten has 24 points as Georgia tops Mississippi State 79-72
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Georgia coach Mark Fox continues to tinker with his lineup as he tries to find a way to boost the Bulldogs’ slim NCAA Tournament hopes.
As Mississippi State coach Ben Howland noticed, that tinkering hasn’t affected the secure starting jobs of Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier.
Maten scored 24 points in his return to high-scoring form, Frazier scored all of his 17 points in the second half and Georgia pulled away with a 12-3 run late in the game to beat Mississippi State 79-72 on Tuesday night.
A 3-pointer by Mississippi State’s Xavian Stapleton with 6:29 remaining tied the game at 54-all. Georgia answered with eight straight points, including a jam and two free throws by Maten, to start the 12-3 run.
”We had difficulty with Maten inside,” Howland said.
Georgia (15-11, 6-7 Southeastern Conference) has won two straight following three straight losses to ranked teams.
”It means we’re a team that doesn’t fold,” said Juwan Parker, who had 16 points.
Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Mario Kegler each had 14 points for Mississippi State (14-11, 5-8), which has lost three straight and five of six.
Maten, third in SEC with 19.2 points per game, scored only seven points before fouling out in a season-low 17 minutes in Saturday’s 76-75 win at Tennessee. He didn’t pick up his first foul against Mississippi State until almost five minutes into the second half.
Maten had 15 points in the second half as he scored at least 20 points for the 10th time this season and 22nd time in his career.
Frazier sank three 3-pointers in the second half.
”He’s definitely going to find some small holes to fit in and get some baskets,” Parker said of Frazier. ”When he’s hot, J.J. goes crazy.”
Frazier missed his first six shots before his fast-break 3-pointer gave Georgia a 40-35 lead. Frazier, a 3-point specialist who had a season-high 29 points against Tennessee, had difficulty finding open shots early as Peters and I.J. Ready followed Frazier’s every move with their tight defense.
Fox gave E’Torrion Wilridge, a sophomore forward and strong defender, his first career start. Wilridge said he found out in Tuesday’s practice that he would be guarding Weatherspoon, the SEC’s fourth-leading scorer. Weatherspoon made only 5 of 13 shots from this field and missed each of his four 3-pointers.
Fox wasn’t happy with his first-half defense but said Wilridge ”was probably the one bright spot.”
Wilridge had five points, six rebounds and four assists.
Each team started slowly. Mississippi State made only 3 of its first 13 shots – but each good attempt was a 3-pointer. Georgia had a 1-for-12 shooting slump later in the half as the visiting Bulldogs found their range.
Mississippi State: Weatherspoon briefly left the game after picking up his second foul with 12:48 remaining in the first half. He didn’t pick up another foul in the game. … Aric Holman fouled out with 1:27 remaining. … Stapleton had 11 points.
Georgia: Maten made 12 of 13 free throws. He had nine rebounds as Georgia took a 37-30 advantage on the glass. … Georgia made only 25 percent of its shots (7 of 28) in the first half but improved to 66.7 percent (16 of 24) in the final 20 minutes.
Mississippi State led 32-28 at halftime but immediately lost momentum following the break.
”My disappointment is the first five minutes of the second half we didn’t do what we needed to do to extend the lead,” Howland said. ”We were playing catch-up again and it’s tough to play catch-up when you’re on the road.”
Frazier passed former teammate Charles Mann for 13th place on Georgia’s career scoring list. He also passed Carlos Strong and is only 11 points behind James Banks in 11th place.
Mississippi State: Hosts No. 15 Florida on Saturday.
Georgia: Hosts No. 13 Kentucky on Saturday.
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