Georgia
7Xavier
61 - 73 Final
  for this game

Xavier survives first-round scare from Georgia

Mar 20, 2008 - 10:40 PM
WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- Sean Miller knew his team would have its hands full with Georgia. The Xavier coach certainly was relieved his players found themselves in time to avoid a major NCAA Tournament upset.

Josh Duncan scored 20 points Thursday as third-seeded Xavier rallied for a 73-61 victory over No. 14 Georgia in the first round of the West Regional.

Derrick Brown added 19 points and 11 rebounds as the Musketeers (28-6) erased an 11-point second-half deficit against the Bulldogs (17-17), who reached the NCAAs courtesy of a stunning run in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

"We knew coming into the game it was going to be a war," Miller said. "I credit our team, because Georgia played an excellent first half and we played an equally bad first half. In very few times can you flip it like we did at halftime."

But Xavier needed to pull off a "flip" in order to avoid becoming the fifth No. 3 seed to lose a first-round game in the last 10 years.

"We're a team that's been through a lot of tough situations, and we tend to stay together throughout the year," said Duncan, who grabbed eight rebounds and made 11-of-14 free throws. "We don't break down."

Most experts figures Georgia would break down playing in its fifth game over the last eight days. But the SEC champion Bulldogs used a relentless defense to take a 35-26 halftime lead.

"I really felt like we played a very good team," Miller said. "They came into the tournament playing with as much confidence as anybody in the field. Having said that, we were a little tight the first half. I'm not sure why."

Georgia appeared on the verge of another upset in the NCAA Tournament opener, riding Terrance Woodbury's hot shooting to build a 43-32 lead with 16 minutes remaining.

But Xavier reeled off a 27-8 run over the next 11 minutes to take control. Duncan scored eight points during the outburst, and freshman Dante' Jackson sank a 3-pointer with 7:23 remaining to give the Musketeers the lead for good at 52-49.

Brown converted a three-point play 2 1/2 minutes later, capping the surge and pushing Xavier's advantage to 59-51.

"Our defense created more opportunities than our offense," said Xavier point guard Drew Lavender, who scored 13 points. "We got some easy buckets which we didn't get in the first half. We turned it up on defense."

Dave Bliss' dunk with 1:36 left pulled Georgia within 64-61. But Xavier iced the contest from the free-throw line, making 9-of-10 shots from the stripe over the final 81 seconds.

The Musketeers advanced to a second-round matchup with sixth-seeded Purdue, which rolled past No. 11 Baylor later Thursday.

Conversely, Georgia is headed home after another spirited run against a superior opponent.

Despite going just 4-12 in the SEC this season, the Bulldogs won the conference tournament last weekend in Atlanta, where inclement weather forced a postponement of last Friday's schedule.

As a result, Georgia was forced to win two games Saturday before defeating Arkansas the following day in the championship contest.

"You can't help but think it was to our advantage on what they just went through," Miller said. "The longer the game to me, the more we were able to wear them down, and I think we all know part of that reason was the energy they had to use this past weekend."

Georgia coach Dennis Felton claimed, however, that fatigue was not a factor in his team's second-half collapse.

"I thought we remained aggressive and played really hard all the way to the end," Felton said. "I wouldn't count fatigue as an issue."

Woodbury scored 16 points while Sundiata Gaines added 13 and six assists for the Bulldogs, who shot just 38.5 percent (10-of-26) after the break.