Gaines was matched up against Xavier guard Stanley Burrell, the Atlantic 10 defensive player of the year, and had his hands full all night. Gaines finished with 13 points, six assists and five turnovers.
"I may not have gotten some of the calls that I should have got, but (Burrell) did a good job of playing defense," Gaines said. "They just found a way to slow me down in the second half, and I think that helped them make their runs and dictate the game."
Gaines was much harder on himself than his coach was.
"I think Sundiata was his normal strong self from wire to wire," Felton said. "He always has stretches of games where he has to battle though fatigue. He probably spent more time on the floor getting knocked down and that sort of thing than any game I can remember."
When Felton took Gaines out of the game with 6.6 seconds remaining, Burrell ran across court to slap his hand.
"He's a really good player, better than what I've seen on film when I was doing my homework," Burrell said. "He's physical and strong and does a great job at playing at his own pace."
After the game, Felton heaped praise on his departing point guard.
"He sort of ushered us through the most difficult period in Georgia basketball history, beginning with his choice to come to Georgia when it was hard to get anybody to even talk to us," Felton said. "Then he endured and led the program through that whole period where it culminated in this. He impacted the game in almost every way every night."
Gaines is the only player in school history to have more than 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists in his career.
GRACIOUS GROOMING: Felton promised students at a Georgia home game this season that he would shave his trademark mustache when his team won an SEC Championship. Now that the season is over, he plans to pay up.
"I'm a man of my word," Felton said. "I not only count on that, I look forward to it."
COSTLY DROPOFF: Freshman forward Jeremy Price had eight points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first half but was just 1-of-3 in the second half to finish with 10 points.
"They didn't do anything to take me out of the game," he said. "That's just how the game went."
FRIENDLY FACE: Former Bulldog Jarvis Hayes, now a member of the Detroit Pistons, took advantage of a day off to attend Thursday's game. Hayes played the first four years of his career in the Verizon Center as a member of the Washington Wizards.
His Pistons play Washington here Sunday.
"If the Dogs take care of business, I'll be back Saturday," he said at halftime, when his alma mater led Xavier 35-26.
Georgia's appearance in the tournament gave Hayes a chance to save face in front of his teammates in Detroit. The regular season, in which Georgia went 13-16, was no fun for Hayes in the Pistons' locker room.
"The whole season they were giving me grief," Hayes said. "As soon as my ‘Dogs got hot, I started giving it right back to them. They heard my mouth a lot this week."
THIS AND THAT: The Bulldogs made their fewest free throws (three) since Jan. 6, 2007 against Florida. Their attempts (five) were a season low. … Georgia is 1-1 all-time against Xavier. They are now 8-5 against Atlantic 10 schools. … The Bulldogs were on a season-best four-game winning streak.