CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — In a game that saw eight ties and eight lead changes, it came down to who was going to make the first run.
The run never came for No. 6 seed Georgia Southern as No. 3 Appalachian State went on an 11-4 run midway through the second half as it eliminated the Eagles from the first round of the 2011 Southern Conference Tournament with a 65-57 win Friday at McKenzie Arena.
“We just wanted to get a little run in and try to put them away _ about an 8-0, 10-0 run — and we kind of did that in the second half,” said ASU guard Donald Sims, who led all scorers with 20 points. “We needed to make a run and get stops.”
Georgia Southern guard Jelani Hewitt hit a 3-pointer with 10 minutes, 14 seconds remaining in the game to knot the score at 35-35, but the Mountaineers (16-14) answered in a big way.
Anthony Breeze hit a jumper on the ensuing possession and was fouled by Marvin Baynham, allowing him to convert the old-fashioned three-point play.
Baynham responded with four-straight points, but ASU’s Omar Carter and Sims went on an 8-0 run to give the Mountaineers a 46-39 advantage. And a seven-point lead the Eagles (5-27) never recovered from. The Mountaineers converted all three second-half GSU turnovers in the run, and the Eagles shot just 1 for 5 from 3-point range.
“In a game like this you’ve got to fight for every inch,” said GSU coach Charlton Young. “If you keep giving away those inches, they add up. I felt like we were competitive, I felt like it could have gone either way, but when it was time to make good
decisions and handle pressure situations, I just think Sims and Carter were more comfortable then we were. That’s what caused them to make the run.”
Hewitt’s 3 was the only one GSU hit in the game in nine attempts.
“I think we were a little bit stagnant,” said Hewitt, who finished with 15 points. “That’s why we couldn’t score the ball,” said Hewitt. “We just had to scrap for all of our points, and we knew it was going to come to that. It’s the playoffs and everybody’s going to play hard. It comes to who’s going to hustle and get those scrap points.”
Each GSU lead didn’t last long. Baynham hit a pair of free throws to make it 29-28 early in the second after a 22-21 ASU lead at the break, but Sims quickly hit a 3 to put the lead right back in the Mountaineers’ hands. The largest Eagles’ lead came late in the first half when a Drayton free throw made it 19-16.
Baynham, whose 13 points set a new career high, scored double digits in the post, and point guard Ben Drayton led the Eagles with 16 points.
Sims and Carter combined for 34 points for Appalachian State, and Petey Hausley added 11.
Drayton and Ferguson both received honors from Southern Conference coaches and media. Drayton was named third-team All-SoCon and Ferguson was named to the league’s All-Freshman team.
During halftime of the early game — UNC Greensboro’s 71-64 win over Davidson — sections 109-116 were evacuated and a bomb squad was called in for undisclosed reasons.
The Eagles, who were arriving at McKenzie Arena at the time, were held from entering the venue until the situation was resolved.
Shortly after, fans returned to their seats and all was normal again. The second half of the game in progress resumed as
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.