HARRISONBURG, Va., Feb. 14, 2012 - Georgia State made 21 of 24 free throws for a decisive advantage at the foul line and held off James Madison's late rally attempt to post a 67-64 Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball win Tuesday night at the JMU Convocation Center.
GSU won for the fourth time in its last five games to improve to 18-9 overall and 10-6 in the CAA. JMU dropped its third straight home contest to fall to 11-17 overall and 4-12 in the conference.
The Panthers entered the day ranked 292nd in the country for free throw percentage at .646. However, GSU converted 21-of-24 opportunities for the game, 18-of-20 in the second half and 9-of-10 in the final three minutes.
The hot shooting at the arc helped Georgia State withstand a late push by James Madison. The Panthers appeared to get a potential clinching shot on a three by Devonta White to make it 62-54 with 1:54 to go.
The Dukes refused to go quietly, however, as junior forward Andrey Semenov (St. Petersburg, Russia/Blue Ridge School) swished a deep three from the top at the 1:36 mark. After two free throws by GSU forward Eric Buckner, Semenov hit another three, his sixth of the game, to pull within four with 1:23 to go.
GSU gave the Dukes an opening when guard James Fields had one of the rare missed, hitting 1-of-2 attempts before JMU junior guard Devon Moore (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) banked a layup to make it 65-62 with 1:05 remaining.
Madison locked in on defense and rebounded Jihad Ali's jumper from the baseline, calling timeout with 28 seconds on the clock. Moore tried to penetrate the lane but lost the handle, and the Dukes never got a look at tying or cutting the deficit to one. White hit two final free throws and a layup by JMU junior guard A.J. Davis (Columbus, Ohio/Harmony Community) accounted for the final score of 67-64.
Ali filled the score sheet for the Panthers with 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Altogether, four GSU players hit double figures as White added 13 points, Rashaad Richardon posted 12 and Josh Micheaux contributed 10 with five boards and three assists.
Semenov matched his season high with 22 points to go with a team high of six rebounds. He shot 6-for-8 from the arc to match his career high for three-point field goals. He is now 11-for-16 (69 percent) from the arc his last two games, 21-for-36 (58 percent) his last five games and 27-for- 48 (56 percent) his last eight games.
While Semenov posted his second 20-point game of the season, Davis collected his 10th with 20 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals in a game-high 39 minutes. Moore added eight points and five assists for the Dukes.
GSU's free throw performance came from a well-rounded effort with six different players hitting at least two at the line. The showing at the stripe helped the Panthers overcome 29 percent shooting from the floor in the second half, including 2-for-8 from the arc. Georgia State shot 52 percent in the first half en route to building a 35-27 lead at intermission.
While GSU went cold from the field in the second half, the Dukes got hot, shooting at a 57 percent clip from the floor while hitting 6-of-9 from the arc. For the game, JMU shot 47 percent compared to 42 for GSU while going 10-for-22 (46 percent) from the arc. However, the Dukes went just 6-for-11 from the line to give the Panthers the ultimate advantage at the stripe.
The Panthers held an 11-point lead entering the final minute of the first half when JMU senior guard Humpty Hitchens (Chillicothe, Ohio/Chillicothe) hit a late three. The Dukes turned that into an 11-0 run spanning the halves as another Hitchens three tied it at 35-35 at the 16:47 mark.
GSU had the answer, though, as the visitors ripped off nine straight points of their own with a Buckner dunk, a three by Ali, two free throws by Fields and two more by Ali to make it 44-35 with 14:13 to go.
The Dukes got within a single possession twice with a three-point margin on a Semenov trey with 10:25 to go (48-45) and again on the Moore layup with one minute to go (65-62). However, JMU could cut it no closer at any point over the final 16 minutes.
JMU grabbed the early lead out of the gate with threes by Semenov and Davis plus a layup by Davis providing an early 8-2 advantage. However, GSU fought back to tie the score quickly at 10-10. The Panthers led 22-18 when a Swindle layup was followed by a Davis steal of the inbounds play and a tying layup.
GSU then upped the pressure and held the Dukes quiet for five minutes while registering 11 straight points for a 33-22 advantage with two minutes to go. A layup by Moore finally ended the run and a late three by Hitchens made it 35-27 at the half.
Davis had 12 in the half for the Dukes. Richardson had 12 for GSU while Ali added 10 and six boards. The Panthers shot 52 percent for the half.
JMU takes a brief hiatus from CAA play to participate in Sears BracketBusters weekend with a 2 p.m. game on Saturday at Detroit of the Horizon League.
NOTES: JMU fell to 5-7 all-time against GSU as the Panthers won for the five time in the last six meetings... in addition to the free throw advantage, GSU also forced 11 turnovers, leading to a 17-8 margin in points off turnovers... Eric Buckner finished with eight points, six rebounds and five blocks for the Panthers with 11 of his 94 blocks for the season coming in two games against JMU... Hitchens missed the final 13 and a half minutes of the game after falling hard on his shoulder on a fastbreak layup attempt... junior center Gene Swindle (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) has had two of his top three scoring games of the season against GSU as he finished with six points after setting a career high with seven on Jan. 23 in Atlanta... despite its 11-17 record, JMU had been 4-1 in games decided by three points or less prior to Tuesday's game... JMU has now his at least six three-point fields in 24 of 28 games this season and is averaging 9.7 made threes per game over the last seven games... Moore moved into eighth place all-time at JMU with 299 career assists... Davis broke into the top 10 for steals in a season with 50 and needs just three to reach second and 13 to match the record of 63.