BOSTON-Georgia State overcame an 11-point first half deficit and freshman R.J. Hunter tied a career-high with 27 points as the Panthers earned a 78-73 victory over first place Northeastern at Matthews Arena on Wednesday night.
Georgia State (11-12, 6-4 CAA) won for the fifth time in six games, while Northeastern (13-8, 8-1 CAA) had its eight-game winning streak snapped as the Huskies dropped their first game in conference play.
Hunter, who helped cut the deficit in the first half with 12 straight Panther points, tied his career-high set just over a week ago, hitting 10-of-18 from the floor, including 5-of-11 from three-point range. His biggest play might have been on defense, blocking Jonathan Lee’s jumper, which would have tied the game, with under 20 seconds to play.
The two top three-point shooting teams in the CAA combined to make 22 three-pointers. The Panthers hit 42.3 percent compared to 47.8 percent for Northeastern. However, after the Huskies made 8-of-11 in the first half, they went just 3-of-12 in the second half.
Rashaad Richardson and Devonta White each added 13 points for the Panthers, while redshirt-junior Manny Atkins chipped in 12 points, six rebounds and five assists.
“That was a very good win for us,” commented head coach Ron Hunter after the victory. “In the first half, Northeastern shot the ball extremely well and I told our guys that we are a better defense team than that. In the second half, we came out and played GSU-type defense and held them to just 27 points and under 40 percent shooting.
“We played with a lot of confidence in the second half. We have been playing with a lot of confidence lately and the results are showing on the court.”
The Panthers trailed 52-42 early in the second half before responding with a 12-0 run, holding Northeastern without a point for more than six minutes to take a two-point lead with 13:55 to play.
The Huskies drought continued as NU failed to make a field goal for more than 11 minutes, allowing Georgia State to build its lead to 66-54 with 7:47 to play.
Northeastern responded and had a chance to tie the game. With NU down three with 1:31 to play, Joel Smith made just one of three free throws to cut the deficit to two, 72-70.
After White made a pair of free throws for the Panthers, Lee hit a three with 10.9 seconds to play as GSU led 74-73.
White made two more free throws with 10.4 seconds left to put GSU back up three. Lee came down the court and missed a three with five seconds to play and GSU came up with the rebound before Richardson made two free throws with 0.2 seconds to play.
Hunter kept the Panthers in the game late in the first half, scoring 12 straight Panther points. The reigning CAA co-Rookie of the Week scored 20 or more points for the ninth time this season.
Georgia State trailed the entire first half as Northeastern shot 64.3 percent from the floor and made 8-of-11 from three-point range to take a seven-point half-time lead.
The Panthers shot 50.9 percent for the game and 42.3 percent from three-point range.
Atkins extended his free throw streak to 17 by making a pair in the first half.
James Vincent, who scored four points and grabbed seven rebounds, played in his 109th career game to move into the top 10 in school history and is now tied with all-time leading scorer Rodney Hamilton.
Reggie Spencer led Northeastern with 17 points, while Smith added 16, Demetrius Pollard scored 15 and Lee added 14.
David Travers came off the bench to score six for GSU.
Georgia State will return home for three of its next four games. The stretch will start with Old Dominion on Saturday at 2 p.m. As a reminder to fans, Saturday will serve as the annual Penny Pick-up Contest provided by Georgia’s Own Credit Union where children will be invited down to the court postgame to pick-up as many pennies as possible courtesy of Georgia’s Own Credit Union.
Tickets for the game can be purchased by calling 1-866-GA-STATE or going online to GeorgiaStateSports.com.