Harrisonburg, Va.-Senior Jihad Ali scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead Georgia State to a 67-64 victory over James Madison on Tuesday night at the JMU Convocation Center. The Panthers won for the third straight time on the road and the fourth time in the last five games.
Georgia State (18-9, 10-6 CAA) kept its chances of a top four seed in next month's CAA Tournament alive with the win, while James Madison fell to 11-17, 4-12 in the CAA. The 18 wins are the fourth most in a single season in school history, while the 10 CAA wins are the most since GSU joined the CAA in 2005.
Georgia State overcame making just six second half field goals by having its second best free throw shooting performance of the year, knocking down 21-of-24 from the line, including 18-of-20 in the second half.
Andrey Semenov and A.J. Davis combined for 42 of the Dukes 64 points, but James Madison could not overcome a nine-point deficit with 5:40 to play in the second half.
"This was really the first time all year where we won a game by making free throws," commented head coach Ron Hunter. "It was a tough night for me and my guys really picked me up."
Hunter missed the first few minutes of the game watching his son R.J.'s senior night activities from Pike High School in Indianapolis via Skype. The decision had weighed on Hunter's mind for several weeks before deciding to remain with his team. R.J. will play for the Panthers next season.
"Mentally, I was worried about what was going on at home with my family, so I am proud of my team for coming through for me and really lifting me up.
"Jihad Ali played absolutely terrific tonight. He is playing like a senior that doesn't want his career to end."
Ali finished 7-of-12 from the floor, including 4-of-4 from the free throw line, while dishing out four assists and grabbing three steals.
James Madison quickly raced out to a 10-3 lead with 15:15 to play in the first half before Georgia State rallied off nine straight points to take a 12-10 lead.
White scored eight straight Panther points, including a pair of three's, as GSU built a 25-22 lead with 4:31 to play in the first half. A Richardson jumper capped an 11-0 run to give GSU a 33-22 lead with just under two minutes to play, as the Panthers held JMU scoreless for more than five minutes.
Ali, Richardson and White combined for 30 of the Panthers' 35 first half points as Georgia State shot 51.9 percent from the floor, knocking down four three-pointers.
James Madison opened the second half as it did the first half, scoring eight straight points to tie the game at 35-35 with 16:40 to play.
The Panthers immediately followed with a 9-0 run to take a 44-35 lead and never trailed in the second half.
James Madison finished the game 10-of-22 from three-point range as Semenov tied a career-high with six three-pointers, scoring a game-high 22 points. Davis added 20 points and five assists for JMU.
Eric Buckner, a leading candidate for CAA Defensive Player of the Year, chipped in with eight points, six rebounds and five blocks. It was the eighth game this season that Buckner has recorded at least five blocks.
Georgia State will return home on Saturday to face UTSA in the annual SEARS Bracketbusters. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. from the GSU Sports Arena.
The game can also be heard live on WRAS-FM 88.5 beginning at 6:30 p.m. with the Panther Pregame Show. Live stats and live video are available at GeorgiaStateSports.com.
Fans can visit GeorgiaStateSports.com or call 1-866-GA-STATE to purchase tickets for the Panthers remaining two home games.