The game swung both ways for both GSUs, but in the end, it was Georgia Southern holding off Georgia State in overtime.
The Eagles forced three turnovers in the extra period to help send the Panthers away as they won 74-72 Wednesday in Hanner Fieldhouse.
Freshman Eric Ferguson (17 points) and junior Ben Drayton (19 points), who combined for just nine points in the first half, scored eight of the Eagles’ 11 overtime points, and Drayton scored 17 in the second half and overtime.
Ferguson had four of the game’s last six points.
“I had a slow start at the beginning of the game and coach [Charlton Young] sat me out to try and get my head right,” Ferguson said. “I knew I had to come out with a lot of energy.”
With the score tied 72-72 with 48 seconds to go in overtime, Ferguson drove the baseline but missed a layup.
Georgia State’s Jihad Ali didn’t have the ball long on the other end, as Ferguson knocked it loose. It shot out toward the sideline, but Ferguson laid out to take control and call timeout just before it went out of bounds.
“I had just missed a layup,” he said, “so I had to find something to get guys going and get the stop. I saw a loose ball with nobody going after it, so I just gave it my all just to reach out there and get it, and that was a big play for us.”
Drayton was fouled with 10 seconds to go and sank both foul shots, and Devonta White was called for a charge on the other end giving the ball back to Georgia Southern.
Cameron Baskerville was immediately fouled on the inbound, and missed the front end of a one-and-one with 3.8 seconds to go, but State’s Harold Doby couldn’t get his shot off before time expired.
The Panthers (4-5) led by four at halftime and led by as many as nine in the first half, but the Eagles got inspired defensively by Young at the break.
“I just told them that a person doing the same thing over and over again expecting the same results is insane,” Young said. “I asked the players, I said, ‘Who can we play that won’t put us in a hole?’ We played a different lineup, and we were able to sustain some energy. The light bulb is starting to go off.”
Young put senior forward Rory Spencer and freshmen guards Zuri James and Jelani Hewitt on the floor to start the second half, in place of Drayton, Baskerville and Tre Bussey.
The Eagles (4-9) scored 27 points off turnovers, got 10 of their 15 steals in the second half, and forced 12 second-half turnovers by the Panthers.
“That’s what will win games for us,” said Ferguson. “Defense. So we came out here and showed that we can play defense.”
Ferguson’s four steals led the Eagles.
Trailing 36-32 at halftime, Georgia Southern started the second period on a 24-8 run to go ahead 52-39, but a 3-pointer by State’s Dante Curry stopped the skid and allowed the Panthers to start chipping away at the score.
The Eagles return to action Wednesday, December 29 on the road at Auburn at 8 p.m.
NOTES: Hewitt joined Drayton and Ferguson in double digits with 10 points. … Junior forward Brandon McGee led Georgia State with 23 points. … Georgia Southern and Georgia State played for the first time since 1996 last season in Atlanta. State won 85-65. … The Eagles lead the overall series 31-12. … The win was the first against a Division I opponent by the Eagles this season. The last Division I victory came on the road against Samford on Feb. 22.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.