February 8, 2011

Dawgs struggle in loss to Xavier

It's going to be about another month before the Georgia Bulldogs get an idea whether or not Tuesday night's game against Xavier had a direct effect in regards to getting a bid to the NCAAs.

But one thing's for sure, Mark Fox's squad didn't do itself any favors after dropping a 65-57 decision to the Musketeers before a Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 7,627.

"When Tournament time comes, these are the types of games they look at and see which ones you won, which ones you lost," Trey Thompkins shrugged. "We've got to have some more wins on our resume so we can get some respect when that time comes."

With a record of 16-7 and seven regular-season games to go in SEC play, the Bulldogs can ill-afford many more miss-steps.

"At this point in the year, every game is going to be big," guard Dustin Ware said. "We've got to make sure we come out ready to go every night. The SEC is tough. We've got to make sure we come out ready to fight every night."

For the first 20 minutes of Tuesday's contest, that's just what the Bulldogs did, jumping out to a 27-26 halftime lead before Xavier (17-6) changed up its defensive strategy and effectively stymied Georgia the rest of the night - Thompkins included.

After scoring 10 points the first half, Xavier held Thompkins to just four in the second before he fouled out with 5:42 to go in the game.

Three minutes later, Jeremy Price found his way to the bench with his fifth foul as the Musketeers outscored Georgia 18-11 over the final 5:35 to finish with the eight-point win.

"They started trapping and forced me to make passes out of the trap, which we prepared for," Thompkins said. "We just didn't knock down the shots that we generally knock down."

Although Fox didn't make any excuses, he clearly wasn't pleased with what he saw.

"We definitely played better in the first half than we did the second," Fox said. "Then, our two best offensive players - our interior offensive players - foul out. That's hard to overcome."

Especially, Fox added, when you're not getting much help from other positions.

Despite his four second-half points, Thompkins still finished as Georgia's leading scorer with 14 points, with Travis Leslie, Ware and Gerald Robinson Jr. coming in with 10 each.

Even more telling was the play of Georgia's bench as the Bulldogs only received two points from its backups the entire night.

Tu Holloway paced Xavier with 18 points, one of four Musketeers in double-figures.

"This was one we needed," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "You never want to make too much of it prior, but we wanted to make sure that everyone knew we were hard-fighting team."

The first half was nip and tuck the entire 20 minutes as the margin never swayed more than four points in either direction, including with 5:48 left on a short jumper by 7-foot center Kenny Freese.

That was one of nine lead changes the first, but it was the Bulldogs who got the final dibs when Robinson Jr. kissed in a layup at the 1:39 mark to make the score 27-26 to account for the halftime score.

"We just didn't hold up our end of the bargain tonight," Ware said. "We just didn't get it done."

Georgia, which shot 46.2 percent from the field, was led by Thompkins who scored 10 points the first half.

The Bulldogs return to action Saturday at South Carolina (4 p.m.) before returning home against Vanderbilt Feb. 16.

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