Statesboro, Ga. – Tre Bussey poured in 26 points and Angel Matias and Jelani Hewitt netted 21 apiece to lead Georgia Southern to an 88-81 overtime victory over Furman in Southern Conference men's basketball action on Thursday night at Hanner Fieldhouse in Statesboro, Ga.
The defeat dropped the Paladins to 6-12 overall and 0-5 in the SoCon while Georgia Southern improved to 9-9 overall and 2-1 in league play.
With 21 seconds left in regulation, Hewitt, the SoCon's leading scorer, drained a 25-foot three-pointer from the right wing to knot the game at 71-71. On the ensuing possession, Stephen Croone's pass to Kendrec Ferrara at the top of the key was tipped away, and Croone's last second trey after retrieving the ball came up short.
Matias broke a 74-74 deadlock in overtime with his second triple of the game and Marvin Baynham followed with a two-handed jam with 2:06 remaining to give the Eagles a 79-74 lead that they would not relinquish. Furman trimmed the margin back to three points twice in the extra period, but the Eagles made 5-of-6 shots in overtime and 6-of-10 free throw attempts to hold off the Paladins.
Bussey connected on 5-of-7 treys to net his game-high 26 points as Georgia Southern hit 50% from the field, including 18-of-29 after intermission. Matias' career-best 21 points came on 8-of-15 shooting and the forward fashioned a double-double by adding 10 rebounds.
Croone paced the Paladins with 26 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and the foul line while adding five assists and four steals. Kendrec Ferrara matched a career-best with 21 points and Adonis Rwabigwi established a new career-high by scoring 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
The Paladins shot 55.4% from the floor, including 7-of-19 from beyond the arc. Furman registered 11 steals and a 42-38 edge in points in the paint, but committed 18 turnovers and were out-rebounded 35-33.
Furman built a 32-20 first half lead before Georgia Southern used an 11-2 run to cut the Paladin advantage to 34-31 at halftime. The Eagles grabbed their first lead of the contest, a 42-40 edge, with 14:53 to play before the Paladins reeled off a 15-5 run to build a 55-47 cushion on Ferrara's basket with 9:36 left.
Georgia Southern tied the game at 67-67 with 2:37 left, but Croone answered for Furman with a pair of free throws and a breakaway layup off of a steal to give the Paladins a 71-67 advantage with 1:36 to go in regulation. Matias hit 1-of-2 free throws on the Eagles' next trip and Hewitt followed Ferrara's miss in the lane with the game-tying trey.
The overtime contest was the first for Furman since a victory over Wofford in overtime in January of 2011.
Furman travels to Charleston, S.C., on Saturday to face The Citadel Bulldogs at McAlister Fieldhouse. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m.
Saturday's game will mark the 199th meeting between Furman and The Citadel with the Paladins holding a 114-84 series advantage against its most frequent opponent in school history. The Citadel fashioned a sweep of last year's home-and-home series, but the Paladins have won five of the last seven meetings overall.
The Citadel game can be heard live on WGOG FM 96.3, Fox Sports 1440 AM and through StretchAudio at www.FurmanPaladins.com. Fans can access live updates on Twitter by following @FurmanHoops.