DAHLONEGA, Ga. - The Georgia Southwestern men's basketball team punched its ticket to the Peach Belt Conference Tournament with a 77-71 win at North Georgia on Wednesday afternoon in Memorial Hall.
GSW completed the season series sweep of North Georgia to improve its record to 15-11 overall, 10-9 in the PBC. The Hurricanes won five of their last six games to close out the regular season. North Georgia, playing in a win or go home scenario, sees its season end with a record of 15-11 overall and 9-10 in conference play. The Nighthawks lost four of their final five games.
North Georgia got off to the fast start on Wednesday. A free throw from Andrew Lawrence at the 13:46 mark of the first half gave UNG its largest lead of the afternoon, 15-6. From there the Hurricanes chipped away at the deficit, eventually tying the game at 21-21 when Kevin Burnell drained a 3-pointer with 6:03 remaining before the break. That basket sparked a 13-2 GSW run in which Burnell scored the first five points and Deric Rudolph followed with eight unanswered, including back-to-back 3-pointers. After Corey Green knocked down a pair of free throws for UNG, Damien Leonard drained back-to-back 3-pointers for GSW to give the Hurricanes their largest lead of the game, 37-25. GSW led at the half, 37-27. Southwestern hit 8 of 16 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes compared to 4 of 8 from inside the arc.
UNG opened the second half on an 8-2 run to quickly pull within four points, 39-35, thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers from Green. GSW answered as Rudolph struck again. Following a Redding layup, Rudolph sank consecutive 3-pointers to push the lead back to a game-high 12 points.
The Nighthawks would not go away. UNG stormed back with a 14-0 run and led 49-47 with 13:02 left. The teams went back and forth for close to six minutes before Josh Birchfield gave the Hurricanes the lead for good with 7:18 on the clock. Southwestern pushed its advantage to six points, 72-66, but UNG made one final run to pull within a point, 72-71, with 1:01 to play.
As was the case all game long, the long ball proved GSW's greatest weapon. The Hurricanes worked the shot clock down on the ensuing possession and Leonard drained his eighth 3-pointer of the contest to seal the victory.
Leonard poured in a game-high 24 points, all of which came from beyond the arc as he hit 8 of 14 attempts. Rudolph added 14 points. Redding finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Green paced UNG with a double-double. He scored 23 points and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds. Travis Core added 10 points off the bench.
Southwestern, the No. 3 seed out of the West Division, travels to UNC Pembroke, the No. 2 seed in the East, on Sunday for a 2 p.m. tournament quarterfinal matchup.