In a game that saw six lead changes and eight ties, it was only natural that it would come down to the final minute.
After North Carolina A&T’s Adrian Powell and Jean Louisme combined for 46 points, it was also only natural that they would close out the game with a combined nine points in the final two minutes.
The Aggies took home a 71-65 win Saturday over the Georgia Southern Eagles in Hanner Fieldhouse in GSU’s last non-conference game of the regular season.
The Eagles (6-9) trailed by as many as 11 in the first half.
"For whatever reason, we’ve been getting off to a slow start at home," said GSU coach Charlton Young. "We miss the students being there, or we miss the energy of the band (when school is in session). That’s not an excuse, but it definitely has an effect on the energy level of our team, and I know they’re embarrassed to say that. The first 15 minutes, they out-scrapped us, and we put ourselves in a hole. We were fighting uphill the rest of the ballgame."
Trailing 62-58 with 2:26 to go, Eric Ferguson was fouled making a jumper from the top of the key and cut it to 62-61 with the free throw, but the next two trips down the court resulted in missed 3-point attempts by C.J. Reed and Tre Bussey.
The Aggies (7-9) went 5 of 8 from the foul line in the final minute, and that was good enough to seal the win.
Ferguson led GSU with a double-double, scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
"I need to come out (in the first half) and play harder," said Ferguson, who was 2 of 6 from the floor in the first half. "Coach got onto me and said I need to play harder, so that’s what I did. … They were a lot more scrappy than us. We didn’t come out with the loose balls and we turned it over too much."
The Eagles committed 13 turnovers, down from 23 in Wednesday’s 65-61 loss at UAB, but the Aggies scored 19 points off of GSU miscues and 18 points off of offensive rebounds.
GSU was out-rebounded, 38-34.
The Eagles led early, 9-6, after a 3 by Bussey (12 points), but the Aggies imposed their will after that, exploding for a 15-2 run that was helped in large part by 12 first-half offensive rebounds leading to 14 second-chance points.
"We can’t keep spotting teams and expect to come back," Young said.
Bussey stopped that bleeding with a seven-foot jumper to cut it to 21-13 with 8:18 remaining. The damage, however, had already been done as the Eagles reached 10 fouls just 11:10 into the game and helped NC A&T score 12 points of 15 tries.
A&T led by as many as 11 points, but Ferguson and Reed (12 points) combined for the final 10 GSU points of the half and left the Eagles trailing, 34-28 at the break.
Ferguson started the 10-3 run with a free throw and a two-handed dunk on a put-back, and Reed drilled a 3 and hit a pair of foul shots with 0.6 seconds remaining before the break after he was fouled trying to go coast-to-coast.
Both teams tried to score from the perimeter in the first half, but combined to go 7 of 26 from 3-point land.
The Eagles return to action in the first SoCon game of 2013 on Saturday, facing Wofford in Spartanburg, S.C., at 7 p.m.
: Ferguson snagged his 500th-career rebound early in the first half. Ferguson’s double-double was his fifth of the season – the most so far of any Southern Conference player. The junior became only the 10th player in Georgia Southern history with at least 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in his career. … GSU fell to 16-2 against teams from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in its history. … GSU also fell to 4-2 at home this season. … Freshman guard Cleon Roberts was 3 of 3 from behind the arc, snapping a three-game scoreless streak. … Announced attendance was 1,012.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.