It was the tale of Tu halves in Stegeman Coliseum.
Tu Holloway, the reigning ESPN.com National Player of the Week and five-time A-10 Player of the Week, was held scoreless in the first half, missing all five shots from the field. He finished the game with 18 points, mainly from the free-throw line where he made all 11 attempts, en route to a 65-57 victory for Xavier.
Trey Thompkins had a similarly schizophrenic night, shooting a lights-out 5-5 from inside the arc in the first half and finishing with 10 points. In the second half, Thompkins was continuously harassed and double teamed and finished the game two minutes early, fouling out with just 14 points.
Georgia will feel disappointed not to come away with a win tonight, missing out on an opportunity to add a much-needed resume win, particularly at home in a game with 14 lead changes. If the Stegeman Colisuem fans are any indication, the team will feel worse given the state of the refereeing.
Xavier finished with 27 attempts from the line compared with just 15 for Georgia. This enabled Holloway to get into a groove offensively, and took away Georgia’s size advantage after both Thompkins and Jeremy Price fouled out. Following Thompkins’ fifth, Gerald Robinson was whistled for a questionable charge, sending the already furious fans into further frenzy as they began to throw towels and shirts towards the court. Coach Mark Fox was equally enraged, picking up a bench warning for his efforts. After the game, one of the refs was pelted in the face with a towel.
Fox wouldn’t verbally confess to his frustration with the referees, stating, “It’s just a part of the game,” but the extended pause before the answer and hanging of his head indicated a deeper emotion. Thompkins went a bit further than his coach but not as far as to make excuses for his team. “I personally didn’t think I intentionally fouled him (on his last play),” Thompkins said, “I was pushed in the back, and then I fell to the ground. But it happens. I have enough faith in my teammates to finish games, it just didn’t happen tonight.”
And that is the big-picture problem for the Dogs. While the officiating certainly played a bigger factor than it should in the second half, one of the refs even managed to prevent a Robinson steal, a step back shows a 1-6 record against the top 35 RPI and a team that struggles mightily when Thompkins is forced out of his comfort zone. While losing to top-tier competition isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Georgia has few games against top-50 RPI teams remaining to ensure they finish the season on the right side of the bubble.
Still, if there’s one thing this team has learned under Coach Fox, it’s resilience. All a casual observer has to do is look at the turnaround from last season to now, with virtually the same roster, to understand the mental makeup of this squad. Dustin Ware captured that spirit when asked about making up ground in the RPI, saying “Every game is important. We’re going to come ready and be determined to get some wins.”
To ensure Georgia’s bubble doesn’t burst, they’re going to have to. (more…)