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Holloway's hot second half leads Xavier past Georgia
Xavier guard Tu Holloway (52) goes against Georgia forward Jeremy Price (50) in the first half Tuesday at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens. - photo by David Tulis

ATHENS — Tu Holloway went into the locker room at halftime with a big oh-fer on the stat sheet.

Was he worried?

No way.

Xavier's unheralded junior guard had another huge performance in the second half, scoring all 18 of his points after the break to lead the Musketeers past Georgia 65-57 for an important nonconference win Tuesday night.

This is becoming a trend for Holloway, who scored 20 out of 24 points in the second half during a win over Saint Louis last Saturday, and all 22 in the second half against St. Bonaventure last month.

"A lot of my scoring has come in the second half," he said. "I don't get down on myself. I consider myself a complete basketball player. I can score, but I try to get assists and steals, too. Scoring isn't everything. I'm a 6-foot point guard. I try to get all my guys in the game."

Holloway missed all five shots in the first half but found his groove over the final 20 minutes, breaking down the Bulldogs with his ability to penetrate and draw fouls. He went 11 of 11 at the line and doled out five assists for the Musketeers (17-6), who were taking a break from Atlantic 10 play.

"He's a great player," said Georgia's Trey Thompkins, whose team was playing outside the Southeastern Conference for the final time during the regular season. "He's shifty. He can definitely handle the ball. He's a great floor general for them."

Georgia (16-7) took a big blow when Thompkins, who led the Bulldogs with 14 points, fouled out with 2:42 remaining on a disputed call.

With Holloway dashing into the lane, Thompkins came over to help, got bumped and fell into the Xavier guard, tripping him up. Holloway hit both free throws to make it 56-50, and Georgia never got closer than four the rest of the way with its best player sitting on the bench.

"I fell and just happened to fall into Tu," said Thompkins, who wasn't sure if it was a Xavier player or a teammate who knocked him down. "There were a lot of bodies in there."

This was that rare nonconference game in February that might have a big impact when NCAA bids are handed out in March. Xavier came in No. 24 in the RPI rankings, while Georgia was 39th.

"We feel like we're an NCAA tournament team right now," Holloway said. "We probably came in as like a 10 seed.

With this win, maybe the committee will say, 'Hey, Xavier went down to Georgia and got a quality win."'

On the other side, this one stung.

"We definitely would've liked to have this win," guard Gerald Robinson said. "But we've got to put it behind us now. It's not the end of the season."

Georgia led 27-26 at halftime and appeared on the verge of pulling away when Dustin Ware hit a 3-pointer to make it 37-32 with just under 15 minutes remaining, the Bulldogs' biggest advantage all night.

But the Musketeers got right back in the game, ripping off an 11-2 run that was heavy on Holloway after Mark Lyons got it started with a three-point play.

Holloway hit his only 3 of the night to give Xavier the lead, then sped into the lane, drew a foul on Jeremy Price while making the shot, and completed the three-point play with a free throw.

Finally, Jamel McLean laid one in off a nifty pass from Holloway, putting Xavier up 43-39 and forcing Georgia to call timeout. The Bulldogs pulled even once at 44 but never reclaimed the lead, unable to overcome 9-of-28 shooting (32 percent) in the second half.

Holloway dominated down the stretch. He drew another foul on Price and hit a pair of free throws to make it 52-46 with 4:12 remaining, drove around Robinson to bank in a shot that put Xavier up 54-48, then snuffed out Georgia's last hope when he drew the fifth foul on Thompkins.

Lyons had 14 points, McLean 12 and Kenny Frease 10 for the Musketeers. Georgia got 10 points each from Ware, Robinson and Travis Leslie.

The teams last met in the 2008 NCAA tournament, when the third-seeded Musketeers rallied for a 73-61 win that ended Georgia's Cinderella run. The Bulldogs finished last in the SEC, but won a tornado-disrupted league tournament by winning three games over the final two days.

Now, another significant Xavier victory against Georgia.

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

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