Game Notes: Georgia at Xavier
Because winning ugly is still winning…
by Eddie Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
This game might as well been an 8-seed versus a 9-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Coming into the game with the same record (16-6), similar RPIs, and similar strengths of schedule, these were two teams who needed another bullet point on their resume as the end of conference play nears to the end. In Xavier’s 65-57 victory over Georgia, the Musketeers gained their first significant non-conference victory of the season, and Georgia will wonder “what if” when Selection Sunday rolls around and they’re on the outside looking in.
With an “Empire State of Mind,” the New York born and bred backcourt of Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons accounted for almost half, 32, of Xavier’s 65 total points in the game. Holloway’s night was slow to start, with 0 points in the first half. But a poor shooting night just means that you’ve got to find other ways to be productive. Holloway did that by fullbacking to the rim in the second half (18 points), making big time free-throws (11-11 from the line), and setting up his teammates to get easy buckets (5 assists). Lyons did his part as well, by being the aggressor for a team who’s in desperate need for a solid second scoring option. Fourteen clutch points, including a couple of key drives to the rim were huge in securing the lead for Xavier in the second half.
For Georgia, this is a game that’s going to feel like they let one slip between their fingers. Star guard Travis Leslie disappeared for many stretches of this game, finishing with just 10 points on 4-11 shooting. Trey Thompkins is good. Real good. His 14 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks doesn’t do justice to the impact he had on altering shots and being a strong presence down low for the ‘Dawgs. His untimely foul trouble led to his, and Georgia’s, demise, as fouling out with 2:42 remaining in the game swung the momentum in X’s favor.
This was as ugly a game as I’ve seen both teams play all season, and Xavier looked like the team who had been through some wars in the past. After Thompkins fouled out, UGA crumbled, taking egregiously quick shot after quick shot and ultimately shooting themselves out the game.
Xavier moves to 17-6 on the season, with their next game coming up against the co-leader of the Atlantic-10, the Duquesne Dukes. Georgia (16-7) takes on fellow SEC bubble squad South Carolina Gamecocks on February 12.
- Xavier doesn’t win this game without the strong performance of front court, picking up the horrendous shooting effort of Holloway and Lyons in the first half. Kenny Frease, “Uncle Jamel” McLean and Dante Jackson scored 21 of the combined 26 first half points for Xavier.
- Travis Leslie, the highlight reel known as “T-Bird,” can make plays on the court look effortless and breath taking. But I’m convinced that UGA goes as far as No. 1 is willing to take them. Give all the credit in the world to Lyons and Jackson for hounding Leslie all night, but his disappearing act made it tough for Georgia to win this game. He’s capable, and most Bulldogs fans know this, but he didn’t have it tonight. In the last two minutes, there was no one for Georgia to go to for a bucket, and I’m not sure if the blame should go on Leslie for not demanding it or head coach Mark Fox for coaching the boys up properly.
- Xavier’s basketball season is essentially on the line this week in a two-part test. Part one of the test was passed by beating Georgia, now the second part of the test comes up in a road battle with Duquesne in Pittsburgh on Sunday. They’re both 8-1, and while Xavier’s success has become commonplace in the A-10, the Dukes rise this season has been the biggest surprise in the conference (The Dukes finished 16-16 last season, they already have 16 wins this season). A Xavier win on Sunday would solidify the Musketeers standing as the regular-season A-10 champion and an at-large bid come Selection Sunday. A loss… and they’re scrapping it out with everyone else in the conference tournament hoping to win the automatic bid.
- Georgia baffles me. They’ve got a talented, athletic roster. They can run and defend with anybody when focused. But their lack of discipline on both ends of the floor has to be worrisome for any UGA fan. Coach Fox, in his second year, has gradually improved this team from where they were a year ago. Leslie and Thompkins are both juniors and should come back for senior campaigns, and if they do then I think UGA’s real year will be ‘11-12.
Eddie Maisonet is a freelance sports writer, blogger and big time hoops fan from Oklahoma who currently resides in Cincinnati. Keep up with Eddie at SLAMonline as well as his blog Ed The Sports Fan and on Twitter.