No. 4 Georgia hangs on after feverish rally from Xavier in NIT

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 20 Mar, 2024 at 01:50 AM

Credit: Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

Russel Tchewa made a pair of critical defensive plays in the closing seconds and No. 4 Georgia avoided a disastrous collapse in its 78-76 win over Xavier to open the NIT on Tuesday in Athens, Ga.

The Bulldogs (18-16) built a second-half lead of as many as 23 points, holding the Musketeers without a field goal for a stretch lasting almost six minutes.

Behind Desmond Claude's game-high 30 points, Xavier (16-18) whittled down its deficit. The Musketeers closed the game on a 27-8 run that briefly appeared to reach 29-8 when Tchewa's block of a Quincy Olivari lay-up attempt was called a goaltend.

After a lengthy video review, the call was overturned, and the game-tying score taken off the board.

Tchewa prevented Claude from getting a clean shot attempt out of Xavier's baseline out-of-bounds play with one second remaining as Georgia held on.

The Bulldogs countered Claude's explosive performance with a balanced offensive attack. Nine Georgia scorers finished with at least four points, led by Silas Demary Jr., who had 16.

RJ Melendez finished with 14 points and also nabbed four steals -- the last of which came against Claude in the final minute. The swipe set up a Demary lay-in that gave Georgia a four-point cushion that it would need in the closing 21 seconds.

Dayvion McKnight scored the last of his 10 points on a layup with 11 seconds remaining to cut the Musketeers' deficit to two. Xavier's full-court pressure forced Justin Hill to step out of bounds on Georgia's ensuing inbounds pass, leading to the closing sequence.

Claude and McKnight were joined in double-figure scoring by Abou Ousmane (10 points, game-high 10 rebounds) and Olivari (11 points).

Noah Thomasson scored 12 points for Georgia, which will face the winner of Wednesday's game between top-seeded Wake Forest and Appalachian State. Hill added 10 points and Tchewa finished with six points, six rebounds and four assists.

--Field Level Media