­Statesboro, Ga.—Georgia Southern rallied from 10 points down in the final two minutes to force overtime and then pulled away in the extra session for a 68-64 victory over Georgia State Saturday afternoon at Hanner Fieldhouse. 

Georgia State raced to a big lead in the first half but dropped its fourth straight game in close fashion to fall to 5-8 on the season. The four losses have been by a total of 12 points. Georgia Southern improved to 6-7.

Georgia Southern’s Eric Ferguson tied the game with a three-pointer with 20 seconds left in regulation to cap the Eagles’ late rally. The Panthers had two final shots, but Manny Atkins’ layup under the basket was swatted away with 7.5 seconds left, and Devonta White’s three-point try at the buzzer was no good. 

C.J. Reed’s three-pointer with 2:15 to play in the overtime gave Georgia Southern its first lead of the game at 60-57. White answered with a pair of free throws for Georgia State, but Ferguson, who finished with a game-high 24 points, nailed another three to put Georgia Southern ahead 63-59, and the Eagles held on for the win.

Four Panthers scored in double figures, led by White and R.J. Hunter with 14 points each, and Manny Atkins and James Vincent with 11 apiece. But Hunter fouled out in the final three minutes of regulation, Rashaad Richardson fouled in the overtime, and Vincent spent much of the second half on the bench after picking up his fourth foul shortly after the intermission. 

“We are playing hard, we just are not playing very smart right now,” commented head coach Ron Hunter after the game. “We had been worrying out our starts to games, but we seemed to solve that tonight. Unfortunately, we have been finishing strong and we were not able to do that tonight.

“Our team just needs to keep fighting. We are in a tough stretch right now but it is not for a lack of effort. Our guys are giving it everything that they have and these close games are a tough way to lose.” 

Georgia State raced to a 17-point lead in the first half and still led 55-45 with under two minutes to play, but the Panthers committed four turnovers and missed two free throws, including the front end of a one-and-one, to allow Georgia Southern back into the game.

A layup by Georgia Southern’s Brian Holmes with 1:47 left made the score 55-47, White missed the  front end of a one-on-one, and then Ferguson threw up a wild shot from the lane as he was fouled, and the ball dropped in. He also made the free throw to pull the Eagles within 55-50 with 1:21 still to play. 

With Georgia State trying to run down the clock on offense, Atkins was whistled for a five-second violation with 58 seconds to go. Ferguson made a pair of free throws, and Georgia Southern trailed just 55-52 with 47 seconds left.

Clinging to a three-point lead, the Panthers turned the ball over on the inbounds play, giving possession back to the Eagles. Georgia Southern then gave the ball right back to the Panthers on a travelling call. Georgia State managed to inbound the ball, but White got trapped in the backcourt and the Panthers did not have a timeout left, setting up Ferguson’s tying trey. 

Georgia State scored the first 17 points of the game, hitting seven of its first nine shots from the field, before Georgia Southern finally got on the board with a bucket by Eric Ferguson at 13:26.

The Eagles got as close as six points during the first period before Georgia State ended the half with a 29-21 advantage. White scored 10 points in the first half for Georgia State. 

Vincent contributed seven points, six rebounds and five blocked shots in the first half but quickly picked up his third and fourth fouls in the first two minutes of the second half.

Georgia State opens Colonial Athletic Association play Wednesday, hosting preseason favorite Drexel at 7 p.m. at the GSU Sports Arena. Tickets are available by calling 866-GA-STATE or visiting GeorgiaStateSports.com.

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