Panthers collapse in late loss to Western Michigan

Georgia State did everything right except win the game in a 61-59 loss to Western Michigan in the Georgia State Sports Arena on Saturday.

Hold an opponent to under 37 percent shooting? Check.

Outrebound an opponent by five? Check.

Stop Western Michigan forward Flenard Whitfield from hitting game-winning shot from just inside the free-throw line with 0.6 seconds remaining? Ooops.

WMU had four players score in double figures. Whitfield, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound junior, led all players with 17 points.

Brandon McGee led Georgia State with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Georgia State (3-4) has already played five games that either went to overtime or were decided by less than five points. The Panthers have now had four consecutive games come down to the final possession in regulation.

This one began to unravel midway through the second half. Trailing 54-44, Western Michigan outscored Georgia State 17-5 over the final 8:31.

"I don't think it was anything they really did," Georgia State coach Rod Barnes said.

But Georgia State helped out with committing three of its 16 turnovers in the final eight minutes.

“I thought we had the game and we pretty much gave it to them,” McGee said.

Western Michigan took a 59-56 lead when Matt Stainbrook, who scored 14 points, hit a reverse layup with 36 seconds remaining. But Georgia State came right back to tie it at 59 when McGee hit a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left.

After Western Michigan called a timeout with seven seconds left, Whitfield broke free to get the ball in the right spot for the short game-winner. The victory was the third straight for the Broncos (4-4).

“We didn’t finish strong,” Barnes said.

Western Michigan opened the night with an 11-7 run as Georgia State shot 3 of 9 from the field and committed seven turnovers.

“I thought we lacked focus early,” Barnes said.

But the Panthers came back with an 11-3 run, which ended on a layup by McGee, to take an 18-14 lead. That advantage grew to 24-14 when James Fields drove down the lane for a left-handed layup with 3:59 left in the first half.

Georgia State led 29-22 at halftime.

The Panthers deep bench and constant pressure defense slowed down the Broncos, who defeated Detroit 71-69 in their last game on Wednesday.

Western Michigan shot 25.9 percent (7 of 27) and was outrebounded 21-11 in the first half. Georgia State increased its lead to 44-35 when Eric Buckner had a three-point play with 12:20 left in the game.

McGee hit a layup to give Georgia State a 54-44 lead with 8:28 remaining, which signaled the Broncos' comeback.