ATLANTA--Rashaad Richardson scored 14 points and Eric Buckner blocked a career-high eight shots to lead Georgia State to its fifth straight victory, a 73-47 win over FIU Thursday at the GSU Sports Arena.
Jihad Ali added 11 points, including six straight to ignite the Panthers' (5-3) decisive second half run. Georgia State led 38-34 with 13 minutes left when Ali scored six straight points on a three-pointer and a layup and free throw to build a 44-34 advantage. The Panthers still led by eight at 46-38 before reeling off 12 straight points to take a 58-38 lead with six minutes to go.
"I'm very happy with the way that we are playing defensively right now," commented head coach Ron Hunter after the win. "In 18 years, I don't know that I have had a team play like this defensively.
"Offensively we are still a work in progress, but that is okay. I would rather be where we are defensively and let our offense catch-up with us."
Georgia State held its fourth opponent in the last five games to 50 points or less. During the Panthers' five-game winning streak, opponents are averaging just 49.6 points per game, while State is scoring nearly 71 per contest.
Buckner came within one of the school record of nine blocked shots, and the Panthers set a team record with 14 rejections. The previous record of 12 was set Jan. 29, 2000 vs. Troy. Just five days ago, Buckner set his previous career-high with seven blocks against Liberty.
"Eric is becoming one of the top defensive players in the country," continued Hunter. "He has an incredible ability to block shots that not too many people have. I have been around a long time and have not seen anything like what he is doing right now."
Although finishing strong, Georgia State and FIU (2-4) both started slow, as GSU led just 27-21 at halftime.
FIU led 15-10 with 9:30 to go in the first half before Georgia State used a 12-0 run, holding FIU without a basket for more than four minutes to take a 22-15 lead, one the Panthers never relinquished.
During the run, Richardson nailed a pair of three-pointers and missed another, but Buckner's put-back dunk, which electrified the crowd, warmed the Panthers' offense going into the break.
Senior Josh Micheaux continued his solid shooting at the free throw line, hitting 7-of-10 to finish with seven points, seven rebounds and three assists.
James Fields quietly scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting, helping the Panthers shoot 53.6 percent in the second half.
The Panthers' five-game winning streak is the longest for the program since a pair of seven-game winning streaks during the 2003-04 season.
DeJuan Wright led FIU with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Phil Taylor chipped in 12 points. Dominique Ferguson added a team-high 12 boards.
Georgia State will finish the tough stretch of four games in eight days with the CAA opener on Saturday at 2 p.m. against William & Mary in the GSU Sports Arena.
Both season and individual game tickets for the 2011-12 season are now on sale. A variety of packages can be found by visiting GeorgiaStateSports.com or by calling 1-866-GA-STATE.