UNC Greensboro lived up to its part, losing 80-57 to Appalachian State Saturday, but the Georgia Southern Lady Eagles still needed a win to clinch a bye in next week’s Southern Conference tournament.
Furman took it away.
The Lady Paladins finished the game on a 10-4 run as they knocked off GSU 54-47 Saturday in Hanner Fieldhouse.
Kelly O’Conner dropped 22 points for the Paladins, and when GSU tied it at 45-45 with 3:08 remaining, she took the game over.
“It’s demoralizing, no question,” said GSU coach Rusty Cram. “You’ve got until Thursday to get over it, you’re in the play-in game [of the tournament] now, you were on your floor, and you let it get away. We let down for four or five minutes, and they didn’t. We’ve got to regroup and come out ready at the tournament.”
After Furman’s Reagen Thompson hit a jumper with 19 minutes left in the game to give the Paladins (14-15, 10-10 SoCon) a 26-25 lead, the Eagles (12-17, 9-11) never led again.
Furman led by as many as seven in the second period, and GSU got within one when a Jamie Navarro 3-pointer – her third of the game – cut it to 42-41.
O’Conner answered with a 3 of her own, which sparked an 8-4 run in which she scored all eight Furman points. She drilled another 3 and finished a 16-foot jumper to put the Paladins ahead 50-45 with 2:04 to go.
“You have to make her put the ball on the floor and shoot off the dribble, and we let down,” Cram said. “She got looks and they got it to her right into her shot. We know that. We’ve prepared for four days for that, and we didn’t communicate, and we let her shoot off the pass.”
It was a back-and forth first half, as the game was tied on six different occasions and the lead changed hands eight times.
Furman got on the board first, but Navarro drilled back-to-back 3s to put the Eagles ahead 6-2.
The Paladins answered with O’Conner’s first 3 and a bucket by Kaitlin Oberg to go ahead 7-6, and over the next 1:31, the teams traded baskets and the lead five times.
A 3-pointer by GSU’s Samantha Williams tied the game at 13-13 with 11:19 remaining in the first half, and the Eagles held serve until the final bucket of the period, when Paladins guard Kaitlin Murphy hit a jumper to give Furman a 24-23 lead at the break.
Meredyth Frye led Georgia Southern with 14 points on 7 of 13 shooting and was the only Eagle in double figures.
Oberg and Murphy each finished with 10 for Furman.
With the regular season in the books, the Eagles will be on the practice floor until Thursday when the SoCon tournament tips off Thursday in Chattanooga, Tenn. The No. 6 seed Eagles will face No. 11 seed Wofford at 6 p.m. at McKenzie Arena.
NOTES: Announced attendance was 1,047. … Navarro and Logan Youngblood, both seniors, and Krista Tate, an academic senior who will graduate in May, were recognized before the game – their last in Hanner Fieldhouse.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.