CLEVELAND, GA – The North Georgia men's basketball team took on cross town rival Truett-McConnell College on Tuesday evening, battling back to force overtime where the Bears never trailed in a 90-83 victory over the Saints in non-conference action.
The Saints continue to struggle to open the year, falling to 1-4 overall on the season, while the Bears are now 3-4 on the year.
The Bears looked sharp in the early going as Roderick Bombard knocked down a three-pointer with 16:33 left in the opening half to give Truett-McConnell a four-point edge at 8-4.
The Saints then clamped down on defense and couldn't miss on the other end, going on a 14-0 run, capped by a free throw from Elijah Smith to give North Georgia their largest lead of the half at 18-8 with 12:32 remaining.
Truett-McConnell battled right back and used a 14-2 run of their own to regain the lead as Roderick connected on one of his five first-half three-pointers to make it a 33-32 lead for the Bears with 6:04 remaining.
The lead changed hands two more times before TMC snagged their largest lead of the half at 42-37 on a Jesse Norton fast break layup, but the Saints' Smith came right back and ran the floor to grab an offensive board and slam it home to cut the Bears' lead to 44-41 heading to intermission.
The Bears came out in the second half and scored eight straight points to open the period, giving TMC their largest lead of the game at 52-41, but in a game of runs the Saints answered with 12 straight of their own as Elijah Smith grabbed an offensive rebound and slammed it home to give North Georgia their first lead of the second half at 53-52 with 14:22 remaining.
After falling behind seven points again, the Saints fought their way back and took the lead 66-65 behind a three-point play by Smith with 7:54 remaining. The Bears knotted the score again at 72-72, but North Georgia scored back-to-back buckets from Smith and Carl Taylor, pushing the Saints' lead back to four at 76-72 with 4:18 remaining.
Both teams clamped down on defense in the final minutes and with time running down under 30 seconds, North Georgia found themselves up by a pair with the ball, but Chaun Tinney's three-pointer was off the mark to the Bears who coaxed a foul with 17 seconds remaining. Bombard drained both free throws, setting up the final possession for Clarence Tillman who was off the mark with the final shot of regulation, sending the game into overtime deadlocked at 78-78.
In overtime it was all Truett-McConnell as Bombard drilled one of his game-high seven three-pointers to open the period. Carl Taylor followed with a 15-foot jumper on the next possession, but the Bears caught fire, leading by as many as seven with 46 seconds left before taking the 90-83 victory when the buzzer sounded.
Bombard led all scorers with 34 points, going 7-for-12 from long range, and 11-for-23 from the field, while adding five assists in the victory.
Smith led North Georgia with 21 points, while Taylor added 18, Tillman tallied 13 and Keldrick Coleman rounded out the Saints in double figures with 11. Tinney had a game-high seven assists, while recording five steals in the loss.
The Saints will have nearly a week before making the long trip down to Boca Raton, Florida, to take on Lynn University next Monday evening. Tip-off against the Fighting Knights is set for 8:00 p.m.