Georgia State got off to an early lead in what was primarily a defensive struggle, and was leading 12-5 almost nine minutes into the first half, but the Rams had a 8-0 run that gave them the lead at 13-12 with under eight minutes to play in the half. However, as has often been the case during this streak, Jihad Ali took the lead for the Panthers, scoring seven straight GSU points to gain a 23-18 lead with under 5 minutes remaining in the half. Again, VCU fought back and GSU went into halftime with just a 28-25 lead.
The close defensive battle continued in the second half until a three-pointer by Devonta White and a pair of James Fields free throws gave GSU a nine-point lead at 48-39 with 7:11 to play. The Panthers still had a nine-point lead, their biggest of the game, with 2:14 to play, when the Rams hit two three-pointers to pull to 53-50. After Josh Micheaux banked in a 12-footer from the lane, VCU hit yet another three-pointer to get to 53-55. VCU then missed a three pointer at the buzzer that would have given them the game.
The win marks the Panthers' second win against VCU in the last three tries, as GSU was one of the Rams’ losses in their Final Four season last year.
Jihad Ali led the Panthers, scoring 17 points and grabbing a career-high 11 rebounds, recording the first double-double of his career. Josh Micheaux added eight points, six rebounds, three blocks and two steals, and Eric Buckner eight points, four rebounds and three blocks. Devonta White finished with 14 points, his fifth double-digit game in a row, and three boards, and James Fields collected six points, hitting 4-of-5 from the line, and four rebounds.
In the win, the Panthers held VCU to just 27.1 percent from the floor, while shooting 41 percent from the floor themselves.
“I am so proud of our team tonight,” commented head coach Ron Hunter. “Our team played hard and left it all on the court. I am just happy for my players. They have worked hard and they deserve this win.”
The game marked the mid-point of a stretch of three games in six days against the top three teams in the CAA preseason poll. The Panthers ended Drexel’s six-game winning streak with a 58-44 victory, on Monday before snapping the Rams’ streak on Wednesday.
GSU will finish the 3-game set on Saturday night facing George Mason at 7:30 p.m.