ATLANTA—Georgia State fell to Southern Miss, 69-67, on Tuesday at the GSU Sports Arena. R.J. Hunter scored 24 points for the Panthers, but Jerrold Brooks answered with a career-high 23 for the Golden Eagles, including the go-ahead three-pointer with 2:03 left in the game.
Georgia State dropped its second in a row to fall to 5-6 on the season, while Southern Miss improved to 8-3.
GSU led 63-59 after a three-point play by Manny Atkins with 3:32 to play. Norville Carey made a layup for Southern Miss, and then after a GSU turnover, Carey’s jumper tied the game at 63-all with 2:39 left. He missed the ensuing free throw, but Southern Miss grabbed the rebound, and Jonathan Mills added two free throws to give the Eagles a 65-63 lead with 2:21 left.
Devonta White was fouled in the backcourt and made a pair of foul shots to knot the score again at 65-all before Brooks nailed his three to put the Eagles ahead for good, 68-65.
After a GSU miss and a Southern Miss turnover, the Panthers inbounded the ball with 24 seconds left. Manny Atkins’ three-point attempt from the corner bounced around the rim but fell off, and Markus Crider tipped it in with 6.8 seconds left.
Brooks made one of two free throws, so GSU had one final chance, down 69-67 with five seconds left, but Crider’s three-point attempt from the top of the circle was off the mark.
“Our guys played really hard tonight,” commented head coach Ron Hunter. “We played a really good team tonight that mirrors us in a lot of ways, however, we are young and they are a team that is coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance.
“Unfortunately we hurt ourselves again tonight with too many turnovers and missed free throws. With that said, I know that we are going to be a really good team. I don’t know when it is going to happen, but when it does, this will be a special team.”
Hunter scored 20 of his points in the first half as he went 6-for-8 from three-point range. He hit three straight to open the game, and then his fifth trey of the half put the Panthers ahead, 29-27, with 2:24 to play. He nailed one more with 22 seconds left to help send Georgia State into the locker room with a 34-31 halftime lead.
The Panthers led by as many as 11 points in the second half, moving ahead 52-41 on a layup by James Vincent with 12 minutes to go.
Hunter finished 8-for-16 from the field with six three-pointers, but Brooks was just as good for Southern Miss, hitting 5-of-7 from beyond the arc and 7-for-10 overall.
White and Atkins also reached double figures for GSU, scoring 13 points each.
Dwayne Davis added 12 points and five rebounds for the Golden Eagles.
As a team, Georgia State connected on 10-of-24 from three-point range but just 15-of-22 free throws. GSU shot 44.7 percent from the field while allowing Southern Miss to hit 50 percent of its shots.
Georgia State was clinging to a 60-59 lead with under four minutes to play and the shot clock about to expire when Hunter missed a long three. Atkins wrestled the rebound away from Southern Miss and drove for a layup. He converted the free throw for a 53-59 lead with 3:32 to play.
Georgia State travels to Rhode Island Saturday for a 2 p.m. contest which can be seen live on Cox Sports. The Panthers do not return home until Jan. 2 when they open CAA play with Drexel.
This is Georgia State's 5th game this season decided by either 1 point or 2 points. The Panthers have won three games (by 2, 2, and 1) and now lost two games (by 2 and by 1 point).
R.J. Hunter's 24 points were his fourth game of the season with 20 or more, one shy of his personal-best 25 against South Alabama. His 6 three-point baskets in the game were a personal best in his 11 GSU games, topping his previous of four. The two-time CAA Rookie of the Week now leads the lead in scoring at 14.9 per game.
The tough loss against the 8-3 Southern Miss team shows how hard GSU plays at home as this was just the sixth loss in Coach Ron Hunter's 23 games at Georgia State now.
Coach Hunter scheduled a tough non-conference slate. The Panthers have already faced No. 1 Duke (9-0), Louisiana Tech (9-3), BYU (8-3), Southern Miss (8-3), and East Carolina (7-2). Even the Tennessee State team (5-7) that GSU beat has already toppled Drexel of the CAA.
The Teddy Bear Toss at halftime was a huge success in garnering new stuffed animals for a local charity, The Nicholas House.