Holloway's 18 pace Musketeers
Tu Holloway scored 18 points, all in the second half, and Xavier boosted its NCAA prospects with an important nonconference win, pulling away to beat Georgia 65-57 Tuesday night.
Holloway missed all five shots in the first half but found his groove after the break, 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), taking a break from Atlantic 10 play.
Georgia (16-7), of the Southeastern Conference, took a big blow when top scorer Trey Thompkins 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.
Thompkins led Georgia with 14 points.
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.
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.
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 prompting 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 Gerald 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.