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Xavier ends Georgia's winning streak

POSTED: January 18, 2008 5:04 a.m.
CINCINNATI — Shuffling off the court with heads down, the seventh-ranked Georgia Lady Bulldogs got reacquainted with an old, bad feeling.

So, this is what it’s like to lose.

Amber Harris scored 19 points and Ta’Shia Phillips added 16 Sunday, a balanced attack that helped Xavier pull away to a 65-55 victory over the previously unbeaten Lady Bulldogs.

On the verge of a notable win, Georgia fell hard.

The Lady Bulldogs (13-1) were one victory away from matching the best start in their program’s history. They got thoroughly outplayed by a young team still trying to find itself.

Xavier shot 53 percent from the field and had a 36-26 edge in rebounds.

"What does a competitor do when somebody punches you?" Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "You punch back. We didn’t punch back. We didn’t compete.

"Sickening, is what it is. It’s sickening."

Xavier (10-5) used its balance and grit to pull off a signature win. In their biggest game so far, the Musketeers found they could rely on their two best players.

Harris, a sophomore forward who already holds the school’s career record for blocked shots, had 11 points as Xavier pulled ahead in the first half. Phillips, a freshman center, provided the inside scoring and prevented Georgia from making a run after the Lady Bulldogs got down by 17 early in the second half.

"We usually do fight back," said Georgia point guard Ashley Houts, who was only 1-of-6 from the field for eight points. "We’ve fought back two or three times this season and come back to win. We just got in too big of a hole."

The Lady Bulldogs became the highest-ranked team to lose to Xavier since the Musketeers beat No. 3 Tennessee in a regional semifinal of the 2001 NCAA tournament.

"I hope it shows our players how good we can be if we’ve got the right energy on a daily basis," coach Kevin McGuff said. "We’ve been inconsistent."

It was one of those losses that will stick with Georgia for a while.

Landers has harped on a hard-nosed approach all season, looking to get Georgia back to the Final Four for the first time since 1999. In the opening minutes of the second half, he got that sickening feeling.

Simply put, Xavier was tougher.

"At some points, we fought back," said Tasha Humphrey, who led Georgia with 24 points. "But we didn’t do it consistently."

Phillips took the ball inside and helped Xavier take control. She had a pair of up-close baskets and two free throws in a 14-3 spurt that pushed the lead to 43-26 early in the second half. Georgia missed five straight shots and had five turnovers during that stretch.

"She’s 6-foot-6 and 240 (pounds)," Humphrey said. "There’s not a whole lot we can do about that."

Georgia never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

There were four ties and a pair of lead changes in the first 12 minutes, with neither team able to build more than a three-point lead. Harris then led Xavier on the game-changing run.

The 6-foot-5 forward is the star of Xavier’s young lineup — the Musketeers start three sophomores and a freshman. She scored twice in the final minute of the first half, including a 22-foot shot from the top of the key that put the Musketeers up 29-21. It matched Georgia’s biggest halftime deficit of the season.

"We knew coming in they were going to be aggressive, but we thought we could hit them back and be as strong as them and come out as winners," Harris said.

Harris also had a hand in the Musketeers’ front-line defense, which forced the Lady Bulldogs to take tough shots inside. Georgia opened the game only 4-of-13 from the field, including a pair of in-traffic shots that deflected off the bottom of the backboard.

By that time, Landers was so upset that his face was starting to match the red towel slung over his left shoulder. He didn’t like much of what he saw to start the second half, either, when Xavier went inside and took control.

"It’s a new start," Harris said. "It’s a good win. It puts our name out there."



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