DAHLONEGA, Ga. – Four seniors scored in double figures Saturday evening as the University of North Georgia men's basketball team bounced back from a slow start to defeat Lander University 82-78 in the Saints' final home game of the regular season.
North Georgia (15-10, 10-8 PBC) led only briefly in the first half of play as the Bearcats (8-16, 3-14 PBC) started the game shooting 54.8% (17-31) from the field in the opening stanza. In contrast, the Saints connected on just 35.7% (10-28) of their looks from the field, including 23.5% (4-17) from three-point range, and committed 10 turnovers to fall behind 44-31 by the half time buzzer.
But the Saints did not give up and stepped up with a big second half that saw them score 51 points, a season-high in the second half, while connecting on 50.0% (12-24) of their shots from the field. North Georgia also forced Lander to turn the ball over 14 times in the second stanza and ended the game shooting 42.3% (22-52) from the field while the Bearcats finished 28-58 (48.3%) from the field.
The quartet of seniors who led the Saints in scoring with double figures on "Senior Night" were Robby Goldsmith with 12 off the bench, JC Ward and Pat Moynihan with 11 each and Scott Windom with 10 points. The quartet combined to hit 13 of the Saints' 22 shots and went 16-18 (88.9%) from the free throw line. Ward also tied Ishmael Hollis for most rebounds on the team with seven.
Junior Lamar Richardson led North Georgia with 17 points, including five three-pointers. The Riceboro, Ga. native had half of the Saints' made three-pointers in the game and finished with four rebounds and three assists.
David Pruett, a native of Gainesville, Ga. on Lander's squad, led all scorers with 23 points as he played all 40 minutes. He and Jareal Smith each made three treys in the game. Smith was second on the team with 21 points.
With 14:04 remaining in the game, North Georgia was able to cut the double-digit deficit to single-digits when Ward deflty laid the ball up off the glass and into the net. Four minutes later, the deficit was only five (59-54) when Richardson drilled one of his five treys.
The two teams continued to press the pace of the game with junior Chris Tanzy making several impressive steals to keep the lead within reach.
With just under five minutes remaining, the senior trio of Goldsmith, Windom and Moynihan combined to take the lead back for good for the Saints as they scored eight unanswered points in the span of one minute. Goldsmith started the scoring with a three-pointer from the top of the key before Windom converted a three-point play after being fouled on a layup and hit the ensuing free throw nearly 30 seconds later. Moynihan then took the lead back for the Saints (74-72) as he cleaned up a missed layup by Tanzy with 3:29 left on the clock.
In the last 4:40 of the game, North Georgia out-scored Lander 13-6 to secure the team's sixth win at home, giving North Georgia a 6-5 record at home.
North Georgia will close out the regular season with a 7:30 p.m. West Division game at Georgia Southwestern State University on Saturday, Mar. 2. The Saints will be looking to complete the season-sweep over the Hurricanes after defeating GSW 78-73 on January 24.