GSU wins overtime thriller to extend streak to record breaking 12 in a row

Courtesy: Chris Shattuck Devonta White releases a three to send the game to overtime

Courtesy: Chris Shattuck                                         Devonta White releases a three to send the game to overtime

Georgia State University survived a slow start and an early onslaught of threes to win a school record 12th game in a row in court storming fashion with a 101-91 overtime victory over the University of Texas at Arlington on Saturday night in Atlanta.

After being down by as many as 16 in the second half, Devonta White’s three with 0.4 seconds remaining completed the comeback to send the game to overtime, and from that point forward GSU took control on both ends of the court to secure the record setting victory.

“The consecutive streak, that’s straight for the university.  That’s straight for our fans, our students. That’s not about us,” Coach Ron Hunter said. “We didn’t come in the beginning of the year and say let’s try to break that record. We had two goals. We want to win the conference, and we want to get to the NCAA tournament. That’s the only two goals we have.“

White finished with 30 points, and R.J. Hunter led the team with 31, giving the Panthers two 30-point scorers for only the second time in school history.

GSU improved to 15-6 overall and 8-0 in the Sun Belt Conference. UTA fell to 9-12 and 4-5 in conference play.

In the first half, the Mavericks’ perimeter game overwhelmed the Panthers with Jamel Outler and Reger Dowell, the Sun Belt’s premier scorer, combining for 10 threes.

GSU’s offense got off to a slow start for the third consecutive game, shooting 42.3% from the field and 28.6% from three in the first half.

Yet, the Panthers forced 11 turnovers and were 11-11 from the free throw line to keep the game within six at the end of the first half.

Despite a less impressive 3-point showcase from UTA in the second half, with only three made, GSU fell behind by 16 points midway through the second half before clawing back.

The Panther’s comeback was the result of excellent defense and more success at the free throw line, as they were 8-10 from the free throw line and forced another 12 Mavericks turnovers in the second, along with Hunter and White’s sharpshooting.

Hunter got things going for GSU offensively when he was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 5:47 left in the second half and made all three free throws to cut the UTA lead to 69-66.

After a failed Mavericks’ possession, Hunter drained a three to tie it at 69.

While this shifted the momentum slightly, the Mavericks continued to click offensively, and after a couple of poor possessions Georgia State found itself down four.

It seemed the Panthers would finally take control of the game when White made a layup to pull the State back within two with 23.1 seconds left and then stole the ball to give it right back to the Panthers. But he missed the layup and fouled UTA’s Lonnie McClanahan in the aftermath of the play. McClanahan made one of the two free throws to give the Mavericks an 80-76 advantage.

But Hunter answered yet again with another three to make it an 80-79 game with 5.5 left.

After a foul and two successful UTA free throws, the Panthers found themselves in a three-point hole and called a timeout with 2.7 left to draw up a streak-saving play.

Out of the timeout, White let the ball go with confidence with less than half a second on the clock and hit a three that will go down in GSU lore.

“We had three options. We knew they would come off R.J. We were calling a kind of Lebron play. Kind of a Miami-action that we run,” Hunter said. “And then what happens, it’s kind of a misdirection. Everybody shifts over, and then Devonta becomes the third option. R.J.’s the first. Manny (Atkins) was the second. They can’t cover all three. And we got it to the third option, and the kid just made a big, big play.”

White’s dagger drained the Mavericks’ enthusiasm, and GSU scored a quick two buckets in the opening seconds of overtime. From this point forward State didn’t relinquish the lead, and fans sprinted onto the court in celebration of a record-breaking streak earned in historic fashion.

“We’re not settling for this,” White said. “We want to keep winning, not just necessarily for the streak. Just so we can reach our goals, which is ultimately the NCAA tournament.”

The Panthers continue conference play Monday at the Georgia State Sports Arena when they take on South Alabama at 7 p.m.