By CHRIS WHITAKER
The Americus Times-Recorder
AMERICUS — Georgia Southwestern is probably glad Josh Hurst is a senior.
He sunk two free throws to beat GSW in Americus last year, and he scored a career-high 21 points to go with 12 rebounds — his third career double-double — to lead Georgia College to an 85-83 triple-overtime win on Wednesday.
Hurst scored the Bobcats' final 13 points — which consisted of the second and third overtimes — and made four 3-pointers as GCSU pulled to within two games of the West-leading Hurricanes.
"Just disappointed to play that stretch on the road (going 5-2 with one home win) and come home and not defend our home floor," said coach Mike Leeder. "We didn't really attack their zone real well all night. In overtime, the guys got tired and settled for jump shots at the end.
"(Hurst) is a guy we recruited and didn't get. He's developed into a fine player for Georgia College. He had a great game, and he made some big shots."
GSW (17-6, 10-4 PBC) trailed by as many as 10 in the second half at 53-43 with Trayce Macon sparked a 16-4 run in which he scored 11 of his game-high 25 points; he also grabbed 11 boards.
Macon fouled out with 3:56 remaining in the final overtime.
"We played with a sense of urgency we hadn't showed the entire game," said Leeder. "The guys realized we were down 10 and started guarding a little better and playing harder.
That's how we used to play at the beginning of games. I told them after the game that Georgia College looked like we did a month ago. They were tougher, quicker, and they believe in what they're doing. We've got to get back to that."
Hurst's basket with 23 seconds left tied the game at 63 before GSW's Phillip Brown was stripped going up for a dunk in the final seconds of regulation.
The teams were tied at 72 and 80 after the first two overtimes, and GSW was 1 of 6 from the floor in the final five minutes. The Hurricanes, which lead the conference in 3-pointers made per game, were 11 of 32 for the game and 1 of 4 in the third overtime. Colin Slotter was 2-for-11.
"That's too many threes," said Leeder. "That's not the way we wanted to play. Their zone is very difficult to simulate in practice. I know we lead the league in 3-pointers made, but that most of those are when we go inside back out or penetrating the lanes for a pitch out. Maybe half of them were really good shots. The other half we were settling, and we did a poor job attacking the zone."
Slotter finished with 15 points and seven assists, Brown had 14 points and 16 rebounds, and Evan Mobley chipped in 14 points.
Ryan Aquino had 16 for the Bobcats (14-8, 8-6) while Jared Holmes and Reece Wiedeman had 13, respectively.
The Bobcats held edges in points off turnovers (21-14) and second-chance points (17-7).
Leeder said something has to give on the defensive end. Ranked 22nd entering this week, GSW may fall out of the top 25 after being ranked five straight-weeks, reaching as high as 16th.
"We've got to go back to guarding and find a way to remember what got us nationally ranked for five weeks," he said. "We weren't outscoring people. We were defending, rebounding and causing turnovers. Collectively, we've got away from that. That happens to good teams in basketball — you hit an icy patch. We've hit ours now — I think the last three games — we've got to get back establishing what made us successful early on.
"I think a little bit of complacency has set in. The way we ask guys to guard is difficult, and it's not an easy thing to do. We've cut corners the last few games. You can't turn on and off defense when you need to, and that hasn't happened."
With three games remaining, one win will clinch at least a share of the West Division title and a home game for the conference tournament. Two wins will clinch the top seed.
GSW travels to North Georgia and finishes out with home games against Columbus State and Clayton State.
"If you told me back on Oct. 15, the first day of practice, we'd have a two-game lead with three games to go, I'd say let's tip from right there," said Leeder.