Seattle, Wash.-Georgia State could not overcome an 18-point first half deficit as the Panthers fell to Florida Atlantic 84-77 on Monday evening in the final game of the World Vision Classic at Alaska Airlines Arena. Four Panthers finished in double figures, led by senior Eric Buckner who scored 24 and was named to the all-tournament team.
Buckner led the Panthers second half charge, cutting the Owls lead to just five with 1:06 remaining, though the Owls made six straight free throws over the final minute to clinch the victory.
The South Carolina native took over the game in the paint, hitting 12-of-18 for Georgia State (0-3), adding three blocks and three steals in 37 minutes of action.
"We are going to have to get better at the way we start the game," commented head coach Ron Hunter. "In five games this season, we have not really gotten off to the type of starts we need and when you face an opponent who hits over 50 percent from three-point range, you are not going to win those games.
"We came in and played three really good teams over the last three days. All three of those teams won 20 or more games last season and are predicted to be in the top one or two of their respective conferences this season. I think I learned a lot about our team this weekend and hopefully we can use it to bounce back."
The reigning Sun Belt Conference Champs, Florida Atlantic (1-2), finished the game shooting 55.1 percent from the field and 60 percent from three-point range, knocking down 15-of-25 from beyond the arc.
The Owls began the game red-hot, hitting 7-of-10 from the field, including 5-of-5 from three-point range to take an early 19-5 lead.
The hot shooting continued as FAU finished the first half shooting 59.3 percent from the field and 73.3 percent from three-point range.
The Owls extended their lead to 18 points with 4:25 remaining in the first half before Buckner scored eight straight Panther points to help cut the deficit to 39-25 going into the half.
Florida Atlantic's Greg Gantt led the Owls first half charge, scoring 14 points, on 5-of-6 field goals, including four three-pointers. Gantt finished with 17 points and three assists.
Sophomore Devonta White helped the Panthers cut the lead to nine three minutes into the second half. White finished with nine points and four assists before fouling out.
Freshman Tony Kimbro Jr., who helped spur a Panther comeback on Sunday night, cut the Owls lead to seven with 11:20 to play off a steal by redshirt-senior Jihad Ali. Kimbro scored 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds, while Ali scored 14 and pulled down five boards.
Sophomore Rashaad Richardson cut the deficit to just six with 1:34 remaining, before the Owls finished strong at the line.
Senior Josh Micheaux added 11 points and six assists for State, along with two of the Panthers nine steals.
"The encouraging thing is that our team fought back every night," continued Hunter. "I think we just need to get that first win under out belt and that will really help us."
Omari Grier added 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting for the Owls, while Alex Tucker scored 12 and Kore White added 10.
The Panthers outrebounded the Owls 32-25 and dominated the paint, outscoring Florida Atlantic 44-16.
Georgia State will return to Atlanta for its home opener facing McNeese State (0-1) on Friday night at 7 p.m. in the Sports Arena. The game will air live on WRAS-FM 88.5 beginning with the Panther Pre-Game Show at 6:30 p.m. Live stats can be found at GeorgiaStateSports.com.