Wilmington, N.C.-Georgia State nearly overcame a 14-point second half deficit before falling to UNCW 76-72 on Wednesday night at Trask Coliseum. Freshman R.J. Hunter scored 26 points, his third straight game scoring 25 or more points.
Georgia State (12-13, 7-5 CAA) had its two-game winning streak snapped, while UNCW (9-14, 4-7 CAA) snapped its three game losing streak with the victory.
The Seahawks shot 52.9 percent from the floor and 9-of-18 from three-point range for the game, after shooting 61.5 percent in the first half.
“I thought UNCW played well tonight and made some big shots,” commented head coach Ron Hunter. “We have been playing pretty well defensively lately, but tonight, we did not make the stops that we needed to get.
“When you opponent hits 50 percent of their three’s, you are not going to win too many games. I thought we were able to limit Keith Rendleman, but then we got hurt too much on the outside.”
After earning CAA Player and Rookie of the Week honors on Monday, Hunter finished the first half with 20 points, going 7-of-11 from the floor and hitting all five three-point attempts. He finished the game going 9-of-16 from the floor and 6-of-7 from three-point range.
Rendleman scored 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season. He finished 5-of-8 from the floor and 5-of-7 from the free throw line.
Junior Devonta White led the Panthers second half charge, scoring 16 of his 19 points after halftime. Redshirt-junior Manny Atkins added 12 points for GSU, while senior James Vincent chipped in with eight points and seven rebounds.
Vincent played in his 111th career game to move into a tie for ninth place on GSU’s all-time list with Herman Favors.
Trailing by 10, 68-58, with 6:19 to play, Georgia State responded with an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to two, 68-66, with 3:48 to play.
After a pair of Seahawk baskets pushed the lead by to six with 2:22 to play, Hunter responded with a put-back off a White miss to cut the lead to four with 1:26 remaining. After a defensive stop, Atkins hit a pair of free throws, cutting the lead to 72-70 with 34 seconds remaining.
Craig Ponder, who finished with a team-high 17 points, made two free throws with 20.4 seconds remaining, giving UNCW a 74-70 lead.
Georgia State had one last chance as a foul by Chris Dixon sent White to the free throw line with 16.9 seconds remaining. After hitting both to cut it to 74-72, White fouled Cedrick Williams who made both shots which would seal the victory.
Atkins streak of 19 straight made free throws came to an end in the first half. The streak was just four shy of the school-record of 23 held by Nate Williams.
Hunter scored 13 straight GSU points at one point in the first half, the third straight game that he had a double-digit streak for the Panthers.
Williams finished with 14 points and six rebounds off the bench for UNCW, while Freddie Jackson finished with 10 points.
Georgia State shot 47.3 percent for the game and hit 9-of-17 three-pointers, but managed to make just 11-of-17 from the free throw line.
Georgia State will return home to face Towson on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Sports Arena. It will be Alumni Day as all former Georgia State players are encouraged to come back to campus as the Panthers take on the Tigers.
Alums interested in taking part can contact Nate Summers in the basketball office. Tickets for the game can be purchased by calling 1-866-GA-STATE or going online to GeorgiaStateSports.com.