PEMBROKE, N.C. - With only seven players seeing action Friday afternoon, the Georgia Southwestern men's basketball team prevailed 68-67 over Southern Wesleyan University in the first game of the McDonald's Classic hosted by UNC Pembroke.
GSW improved its record to 2-0 while Southern Wesleyan dropped to 1-3.
The Hurricanes distributed the ball well as they dished out 20 assists on 24 field goals and had four players score in double digits.
However, an opportunity for GSW to jump on the Warriors early was missed as Southern Wesleyan missed its first 15 shots of the game but the Hurricanes lead was no bigger than five points. Cameron Solomon tipped in his own missed layup to end the drought for SWU with 10:13 remaining in the half. GSW slowly stretched its lead over the next 8 1/2 minutes and when Colin Slotter buried a 3-pointer with 1:47 left before the break the Hurricanes held their largest lead of the game, 14 points, at 34-20. Those would prove to be the final points for GSW before the break as Southern Wesleyan closed out the period with eight unanswered to pull within six, 34-28.
SWU picked up where it left off and opened the second half with a 12-4 run to grab its first lead of the afternoon, 40-38, with 15:56 to play.
The game went back and forth over the ensuing 15 minutes as there were six ties and five lead changes.
GSW recorded its last field goal with 4:27 remaining when Damien Leonard hit a 3-pointer to put the Hurricanes ahead, 63-58. From there GSW hit 5 of 6 from the charity stripe to hold on for the win. SWU had regained the lead, 65-64, at the 1:25 mark before a pair of free throws from Josh Birchfield with 46 seconds left put Southwestern ahead for good.
The Hurricanes attempted 22 fewer shots in the contest than SWU and were much more efficient, connecting on 51.1 percent (24 of 47) compared to 37.7 percent (26 of 69). The Warriors won the rebounding battle, 39-32, and GSW committed five more turnovers, 13-8.
Leonard led the Hurricanes with 17 points. He added six rebounds and four assists. Birchfield posted his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Slotter connected on 6 of 7 shots, including 2 of 3 from beyond the arc, to finish with 14 points. Deric Rudolph led all players with eight assists and made 4 of 6 from long range en route to his 14-point afternoon.
Solomon scored a game-high 20 points to lead SWU. Mike Lieberman added a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Southwestern wraps up its visit to Pembroke with a 3 p.m. game on Saturday against Fayetteville State.