Georgia State came up with two crucial defensive stops in the final 90 seconds and made just enough free throws to end its four-game losing streak and defeat its biggest rival in front of an enthusiastic “White Out” crowd.

The Panthers outlasted Georgia Southern 64-60 on Thursday at the GSU Convocation Center to avenge last week’s 58-52 loss in Statesboro, square the season series, and reclaim ownership of the “State Not Southern” hashtag for a few more months.

It wasn’t easy and it would not have been possible without the two pivotal defensive sequences that prevented Georgia State from surrendering the second-half lead.

“They were both game-changing plays when you’re talking about the guts of the game,” coach Jonas Hayes said. “Guys had the mental attention and awareness and alertness that we needed and that’s what we call competitive greatness.”

Georgia State Panthers head coach Jonas Hayes reacts after the Panthers' 64-60 win against Georgia Southern in a NCAA men’s basketball game at the Georgia State Convocation Center, Thursday, February 2, 2023, in Atlanta. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

The first stop came after Southern had cut the lead to 59-55. Georgia State prevented Southern from getting off a shot and Jamaine Mann got a piece of Andrei Savrasov’s desperation 3-pointer to force a shot-clock violation with 1:13 left.

“I knew he was going to shoot since the shot clock was going down,” Mann said. “I just contested and made sure I got in the way.”

After Georgia State failed to take advantage of the turnover, Southern went into attack mode, only to have the Panthers’ Brenden Tucker draw an offensive foul against Kaden Archie and regain possession.

“We always put on the whiteboard, ‘game-changing plays,’” Tucker said. “And I really wanted to win. I’m a winner and I’m going to do anything possible to allow us to win.”

Georgia State had a chance to put it away at the line, but was only able to make one of two free throw on three consecutive possessions. The game wasn’t secure until Tucker made both free throws with 1.9 seconds left.

“If you go back and look after both free throws, I was just saying, ‘boom,’ because I knew what time it was,” Tucker said. “Game over. After the second one hit, I knew we had won.”

Georgia State Panthers guard Brenden Tucker (5) reacts as time expires after the Panthers' 64-60 win against Georgia Southern in a NCAA men’s basketball game at the Georgia State Convocation Center, Thursday, February 2, 2023, in Atlanta. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Tucker led the Panthers (10-13, 3-8 Sun Belt) with 20 points and four rebounds and Mann had 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Ja’Heim Hudson scored 11 and Collin Moore grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds.

Georgia Southern (12-12, 5-6) was led by Jalen Finch with 16 points, Tyran Moore with 13 points and seven rebounds and Archie with 10 points. Savrasov had 13 rebounds.

In the first half, Southern had a 7-0 spurt and enjoyed a five-point lead on two occasions, only to have Georgia State score six straight, the last on a dunk by Kaleb Scott, to take a 21-20 lead. The first half featured a minor State-Southern dustup when Scott got a technical foul for shoving Southern’s Carlos Curry out of bounds under the basket. Southern led 27-25 at halftime.

The Panthers used an 11-0 run in the second half to take a seven-point lead and never trailed again. They were up by nine with 7:34 remaining but were never able to shake the Eagles.

“Now I challenge our guys about how are we going to handle the next day,” Hayes said. “And how are we going to build on being consistent. That’s the next challenge.”

Georgia State plays again on Saturday at 2 p.m. against Southern Miss.

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