Xavier Hands Georgia Third Home Loss of Season

The Georgia Bulldogs‘ offense came to a screeching halt in the second half of the game on Tuesday night, and the Dawgs fell 65-57 to the Xavier Musketeers.

Georgia (16-7; 5-4) played solid defense for a majority of the game, mixing some 3-2 zone into their man sets and limiting the X-Men to just 37% from the field.

But it was the Dawgs’ offense that killed them on Tuesday.

In the first half, Georgia’s offense was pretty efficient – 46.2% on field goal attempts and 10 team assists.  Georgia burned Xavier on a multitude of backdoor cuts.

After the intermission, however, all that stopped.

Xavier coach Chris Mack adjusted his team’s strategy on defense.  The Musketeers brought double-teams to Trey Thompkins every time he touched the ball inside, and Thompkins and company did not handle the pressure very well.  After scoring 10 points on 5 of 7 shooting in the first half, Trey posted just 4 points after the break and was limited to only one field goal.  As a team, the Dawgs shot an abysimal 32.1% on field goal attempts in the second half.

This was not the first time this season that an opponent has decided to double Trey on the block, however, Georgia continues to appear lost when they see this look.  Coach Mark Fox must do a better job of having his players prepared to attack and take advantage when they see the second defender moving over to Thompkins.

The Dawgs had there chances to win in this one, but they failed to capitalize on their opportunities.  With under eight minutes to play and Xavier up just 47-44, Georgia turned the ball over on consecutive trips down the court.

When Trey Thompkins fouled out with 2:42 remaining and Georgia trailing 54-50, things were starting to look rather bleak.  Then Tu Holloway made both free throws, extending the lead to 56-50 and putting the game out of reach (especially for a Dawgs team that was now without its best player).

Trey’s fifth foul was especially unique considering that when he “fouled” Holloway he was lying face down on the floor.  In short, it was vicious.

Gerald Robinson, though slightly reckless on offense (4 turnovers to 2 assists), did an excellent job defending Xavier’s Tu Holloway.  Holloway, who came into the game averaging over 20 points per game, didn’t score a field goal until hitting a three-pointer with 13:27 left in the game.  He did lead all scorers with 18 points, but 8 of them came on free throws at the end of the game when Georgia was forced to foul.  Robinson was persistent in his defense of Holloway, and he frustrated him into shooting just 3 of 13 from the floor.

Georgia has now lost three straight Tuesday night home games (with Tennessee and Florida being the other two).

The Dawgs’ NCAA tournament resume now has a nasty little stain on it – their 2-7 record against the RPI Top 50.  As I mentioned before the game, strong RPI records can carry teams to at-large berths in March.  Georgia will likely have three more games this season against teams in the top 50 of the RPI rating – Vanderbilt at home and then road trips to Tennessee and Florida.

It is beginning to look as though the Dawgs will not be showcasing a very impressive RPI Top 50 record come season’s end.

For Georgia to dance in March, the Dawgs now must have a winning conference record (or win the SEC Tournament I suppose).  Mark Fox’s Bulldogs will need to win out at home, and steal another one on the road if they hope to reach a 9-7 SEC record.  The Dawgs have four remaining away games this season (South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama), with the one in Columbia this Saturday seeming to be their best opportunity for a win.

Another concern right now is that Georgia is beginning to look like a team that cannot win big games.  Since the win against Kentucky to open SEC play back in early January, the Dawgs have dropped games to Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky (in Lexington) and now Xavier (a nationally televised ESPNU game to boot).

They don’t exactly appear to be a team that is getting better as the season progresses, do they?