ATLANTA--Joe Dukes scored 17 points and Trey Hampton added a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds as Georgia State overcame a 12-point second-half deficit to earn a 79-74 victory over UNC Wilmington Wednesday at the GSU Sports Arena.
The win snapped a five-game skid for the Panthers (9-11, 3-5 CAA), while UNCW (6-13, 2-6 CAA) dropped its fifth straight, despite having four players in double figures, led by Johnny Wolf with 19 points and Chad Tomko with 18.
Trailing 43-31 early in the second half, Georgia State turned up its defensive intensity to spark a 17-6 run, scoring on 10 of 12 possessions.
Dante Curry's three-pointer pulled the Panthers within one point at 49-48 with 12:26 to play, but Tomko answered with a three to push UNCW's advantage back to four. Jihad Ali made a driving layup for the Panthers, and after a Seahawk turnover, Dukes layup tied the game at 52-all with 11:24 to go, and from there, GSU never trailed again.
With the score still tied at 52, Dukes stole the ball in the backcourt and gave the Panthers a lead they would not relinquish.
Georgia State pushed its lead up to eight points and led 73-65 with 2:28 to go after a pair of free throws by Curry, but the Seahawks quickly scored six straight on back-to-back threes with Ahmad Grant and Johnny Wolf, pulling within 73-71 with 1:29 to play.
After a GSU turnover, UNCW had a chance to tie the game, but Curry blocked a shot attempt by Grant with 48 seconds and then John Fields missed a pair of free throws with 40 seconds left. Hampton rebounded and sank one of two free throws. After he missed the second, GSU's James Fields was fouled on the scramble for the rebound and made one free throw to push the Panthers' lead to four points. From there, Grant and Tomko missed three-point tries for UNCW, and Georgia State sank four more foul shots to seal the win.
"It was a much-needed win, probably even more so for the coach than for the players," said GSU head coach Rod Barnes. "I'm really proud of the effort our guys played with. The second half was probably the most energy and most enthusiasm we've played with since playing Georgia Southern before Christmas. "UNCW is a very good team with guys who can really score, but our kids did what it took to win tonight.
"Our guys really responded to the change we made at halftime to press and push the ball up the floor. The pressure made us more aggressive and it slowed them (UNCW) down, got them back on their heels and gave us an opportunity to get some steals."
The Panthers shot 51 percent from the field, their best performance in a CAA game this season and committed just 11 turnovers while forcing 17 UNCW miscues. In the second half, GSU connected on 56 percent and outrebounded the Seahawks, 20-13.
With GSU head coach Rod Barnes looking for a spark, Dukes came off the bench rather than starting and responded with a strong all-around effort. He scored his 17 points on 7-for-11 skhooting and also contributed four rebounds, four assists and four steals.
In addition to Tomko and Wolf, the Seahawks had John Fields (14 points, eight rebounds) and Keith Rendlemen (10 points) in double figures. UNCW was playing its third road game in five days, having played at Northeastern and at Virginia before travelling to Atlanta.
Georgia State now faces its next three games on the road, beginning Saturday at Delaware. The 4 p.m. contest will be regionally televised on CSS.