AMERICUS, GA – The North Georgia men's basketball team seemed on the verge of breaking out of their current five-game slump on Wednesday evening, but a pair of late steals by 21st-ranked Georgia Southwestern sealed a 69-60 victory by the Hurricanes in Peach Belt Conference action.
The Saints drop their fifth straight contest as North Georgia's Peach Belt Conference woes continue, falling to 3-11 overall on the season and 0-5 in league action. The Hurricanes, fresh off their first ranking in NCAA history, stay on top of the PBC West standings, improving to 12-3 on the season and 5-1 in conference action. The two squads are set for a rematch and the 66th all-time meeting between the two schools later next month.
North Georgia trailed by two points with 1:47 remaining in the half and had every opportunity to tie the game or take the lead, missing four consecutive shots and a pair of free throws in an 80-second span.
The Saints continued to hold the Hurricanes scoreless through this same period and still had a chance down a bucket and inbounding the ball with 35 seconds left, but a turnover and layup the other way sparked a run of seven straight points by the newly ranked GSW squad, sending the home team to their sixth straight victory.
The North Georgia offense went cold down the stretch, making their final field goal at the 4:22 mark on a layup by Elijah Smith to cut the Hurricane lead to a single point at 57-56. The Saints would only connect on four free throws over the final four minutes, sending North Georgia to another tough Peach Belt Conference defeat on the road.
The Saints had plenty of chances to pull away in the first half, leading by as many as nine points on a jumper from Robby Goldsmith with 1:12 remaining before the half, but the Hurricanes hit a layup and connected of two free throws to cut North Georgia's lead to five at intermission.
Georgia Southwestern came out in the second half and scored seven unanswered points to take the lead for the first time since the opening minute of the contest, pulling ahead 32-30 on a three-pointer from Trayce Slotter with 18:45 remaining.
Clarence Tillman pulled the Saints even with 6:14 remaining, knotting the score 52-52 on a jumper in the paint, but North Georgia would trail the rest of the way before falling 69-60 in the Storm Dome.
Carl Taylor led the Saints, scoring a game-high 21 points on 4-for-9 shooting from long range, while Smith and Tillman followed with 10 and 11 points respectively to round out the North Georgia players in double figures.
The Saints will have two days off before returning to action on Saturday evening, traveling to nearby Clayton State University for another Peach Belt Conference contest. Tip-off against the Lakers is set for 7:30 p.m. in the Athletics and Fitness Center.