AUGUSTA, GA – The North Georgia men's basketball team opened Peach Belt Conference play Monday evening, traveling to 5th-ranked Augusta State University and falling 89-75 at the hands of the Jaguars in Christenberry Fieldhouse.
The Saints drop the opening game of the New Year, falling to 3-7 overall on the season and 0-1 in the Peach Belt Conference, while Augusta State continues to roll, winning their 35th straight home game to improve to 11-0 overall on the year and 3-0 in league action.
Augusta State scored the game's first bucket 55 seconds into the contest but the Saints answered with a three-point bucket from Carl Taylor on the ensuing possession to give North Georgia their first lead of the game at 3-2.
The Jaguars retook the lead on the following possession and never trailed again in the half, extending the lead to as many as nine points on a jumper from George Johnson with 6:44 remaining in the half.
North Georgia rallied down the stretch however, using a 6-0 run that included four free throws to close the gap to a single point at 30-29 with 1:19 remaining, but the Jaguars answered with back-to-back buckets to take a seven-point lead at 38-31 heading into the break.
Augusta State came out in the second half on a mission, quickly pushing the lead to double-digits and taking a 14-point lead as Travis Keels threw down a dunk at the 12:44 mark, giving the Jaguars a 56-42 lead.
The Saints stayed in striking distance throughout the second half, pulling to within eight points with 5:36 remaining on Taylor jumper, but the Jaguars responded with a 9-0 run to pull away for good down the stretch.
Elijah Smith paced North Georgia with 16 points, going 5-for-11 from the field and 6-for-10 from the free throw line, while Clarence Tillman and Taylor each tallied 13 apiece. Robby Goldsmith, Keldrick Coleman, and Pat Moynihan finished with eight points, while Coleman tallied a game-high three steals.
Ben Purser led the Jaguars with 21 points, going 9-for-10 from the free throw line and 5-for-6 from the field, while Keels added 18 points and Johnson finished with 15.
North Georgia shot 43-percent from the field, 36-percent from behind the arc, and 71-percent form the charity stripe, while ASU was 62-percent from the floor, 50-percent from long range, and 79-percent from the free throw line.
The Saints return to action over the weekend, welcoming Columbus State University to town for another Peach Belt Conference contest. Tip-off against the Cougars is set for 3:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall.