WASHINGTON — So Xavier lived up to its No. 3 seeding, after all. The Musketeers, down by 11 early in the second half and seemingly in danger of an early ouster, rallied to beat Georgia, 73-61, this afternoon at the Verizon Center.
Xavier didn't panic when it fell behind by double digits. They dug in defensively, began making some three-pointers, and continued to take the ball inside against the Bulldogs. The officials certainly didn't hurt: Xavier, one of the top free-throw shooting teams in the country, made 25 free throws in the final 15 minutes of the game. The Musketeers went to the basket and created contact, and Georgia didn't seem to get a call in the second half. Xavier outscored the Dawgs from the line, 27-3.
But in the end, Xavier was the better team. They're the only team in the country with six players who average in double figures. They don't rely on any one player to score, which makes it easier not to press when they get behind. Josh Duncan, Xavier's 6-9 senior forward, had 20 points and eight rebounds and was 11 of 14 from the foul line.
All in all, it was an impressive win by Xavier, which looked out of sorts early but justified its No. 12 national ranking. The Musketeers will face the winner of the Purdue-Baylor game in Saturday's second round and could be headed for a showdown with Duke next week in the regional semifinals in Phoenix.