Saints Weather the Storm to Secure 78-73 Win After Hurricanes Come on Strong in Second Half
DAHLONEGA, Ga. – The University of North Georgia men's basketball team dominated Georgia Southwestern State University for much of the game Thursday night, but the Hurricanes kept things exciting with a late-game surge. When it was all said and done, the Saints emerged victorious, having weathered the storm to secure the 78-73 Peach Belt Conference victory inside Memorial Hall Gymnasium.
The win improves the Saints to 11-5 for the year with a 6-3 mark in the conference while the Hurricanes fall to 7-10 overall and 3-7 in the league.
While North Georgia sits comfortably in third and within striking distance of first in the division, the Hurricanes find themselves in a three-way tie with Columbus State University and Clayton State University for the all-important fourth place in the West standings. Only the top-four teams in each division will advance to the conference tournament at the end of the season and Georgia College still could play its way into that fourth-place picture as well.
North Georgia was led in scoring by Scott Windom's 18 points. The senior forward came off the bench to go 6-11 from the field and 4-4 from the free throw line, leading a quartet of players in double-digit scoring.
Ishmael Hollis was the next highest scorer for the Saints, which shot 45.2% (28-62) as a team in the game. Hollis collected 15 points including three three-pointers while Lamar Richardson and Travis Core ended the night with 12 and 11 points respectively. Richardson led all players with four three-pointers in the contest.
Matt Shaw led Georgia Southwestern with 19 points, just two ahead of Milos Kleut's 17. The duo combined to go 13-22 from the field and scored 13 points each in the second half to lead the late-game surge. Shaw went 9-11 from the free throw line in the second half alone as he attempted to bring the Hurricanes back from the brink of a blowout.
The Saints never trailed in the game after Windom swished a three-pointer from the right side of the court to push North Georgia ahead 6-4 with 16:38 still remaining in the first half. The Saints slowly fortified their lead in the opening stanza as Richardson led the three-point barage for North Georgia with three of the Saints' eight three-pointers.
North Georgia shot 51.6% (16-31) in the opening stanza while holding Georgia Southwestern to just nine field goals to build up the 48-27 half time lead, but a 60.9% (14-23) effort by the 'Canes in the second half cut what was a 27-point lead at one point down to as few as four with just a minute left to play in the game. Shaw drilled two free throws at the minute mark to pull Georgia Southwestern within two possessions, but Robby Goldsmith extended the lead back out to six off a tip in from a missed Hollis three-pointer before Hollis made a key steal and streaked down the court to score a layup and give North Georgia some breathing room.
The Saints will next face Clayton State at 3:30 p.m. in another PBC West Division showdown on Saturday during Homecoming. As part of the Homecoming festivities, the Blue Ridge Rifles will perform between the men's and the women's games and the Homecoming Court will be announced at half time of the men's game.
As always, all North Georgia's home basketball games can be followed live via live stats and a free live webcast featuring Craig Corbin and Mike Davenport located on the schedule pages on www.SaintsSports.com. Also, Glory 1330 WGTJ Radio will continue to broadcast live during games with Mike Wofford and Drew Harris on the call. They can also be followed at www.glory1330.com or through the Tune in Radio app.