Georgia State led VCU by eight points at halftime and 12 points early in the second half, but the veteran Rams and their All-America forward Courtney Hurt roared back for a 73-61 win Thursday night at the GSU Sports Arena.
The host Panthers (7-20, 1-15) opened a 33-25 halftime lead by holding VCU to 35% shoting, by owning a 26-16 rebound advantage and shooting 41% themselves.
GSU surged to a 12-point lead twice to start the second half, holding a 45-33 lead at with 16:36 left to play.
But, from that point on it was all VCU (16-11, 9-7). The Rams made 15 of their first 19 shots in the second half. VCU turned that 12-point deficit into a 10-point lead at 7:35, 61-51, with that 28-6 run over those nine minutes.
Leading the way was Atlanta-grown (Conyers, Salem HS) Hurt, VCU's senior star who leads the nation in rebounding and is number eight in the nation in scoring. Hurt poured in 22 points in the second half to finish with 31 points for the game. She had just six rebounds, seven below her 13-per game average. The only other Ram in double figures was forward Aprill McRae with 12 points off the bench on six-for-six lay-ups.
Georgia State got its leads and stayed in the game for a long time thanks to junior center Cody Paulk's 23 points, six rebounds, three blocks and three assists. That was two points above her previous best game of 21 points just five games ago. Over the past six games, Paulk has poured in 91 points. GSU also got 11 points and five assists from point guard Jerlisa Taylor. Kendra Long and Sade Means each added 10 points to give GSU four players in double figures.
GSU scored the first six points of the game and never trailed in the first half. After leading for the first 26 minutes, the Panthers saw VCU gain its first lead at 46-45 with 13:50 to play. But, GSU regained the lead, 49-48 with 12:20 to go. When VCU broke a 51-51 tie with 11:28 to play, the Rams would never lose the lead.
VCU shot 57.1 per cent in the second half from the field and 6-for-6 from the line. They opened the second half with a full-court press and made seven of their 11 steals in the second half.
Georgia State finished with a 36-35 rebounding advantage, while blocking eight shots on the evening.
"Both teams were completely different in each half," said coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener. "We were aggressive on both ends of the court in the first half and at the start of the second half, but then they became the aggressors on both ends. We were extremely careless with the basketball then and the press that forced us to make bad passes took the wind out of the sails of our young team. Cody Paulk played well all game and she has really become a productive force for us on both ends of the court."
The game offered similarities from the Jan. 29 game between the two teams in Richmond. GSU led at the halftime in that game, 37-33, but VCU came back to post a 75-70 win behind 28 points and 20 rebounds from Hurt that night.
Georgia State plays its final home game on Sunday afternoon against William and Mary at 2 p.m. on Senior Day for Chan Harris.