Published March 15, 2015
Hot Springs, AK – New Orleans, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - R.J. Hunter made two free throws with 21.6 seconds remaining to lift Georgia State to a 38-36 win over Georgia Southern in Sunday's Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship game.
Kevin Ware had a shot blocked by Curtis Diamond, but Hunter grabbed the offensive rebound and drew a foul.
Georgia Southern's Mike Hughes and Eric Ferguson each missed 3-pointers in the waning seconds.
A year after losing in overtime to Louisiana-Lafayette in the title game, the top-seeded Panthers (24-9) earned their third NCAA Tournament berth and first since 2001.
They are the 14th seed in the West Region and will play Baylor on Thursday in Jacksonville, Florida.
Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter tore his left Achilles tendon while jumping to celebrate the victory.
"I knew when I came down that I had done it, but instead of stopping right there, I wanted to go celebrate with my team. More importantly I wanted to go celebrate with my son (R.J.). You don't get many opportunities like that," Hunter said.
R.J. Hunter finished with nine points in the low-scoring final.
Ware, who suffered a compound fracture to his right leg two years ago in the NCAA Tournament while playing for Louisville, was the only player to reach double figures in points, finishing with 18.
Trent Wiedeman and Jelani Hewitt each had eight points for the second-seeded Eagles (22-9), who were held to 22.9 percent shooting.
"We just could not finish the deal at the end, but I could not be more proud of these guys," said Georgia Southern coach Mark Byington.
Georgia Southern grabbed its only lead at 30-29 when Hughes nailed a 3- pointer and Kyle Doyle hit a layup with 9:30 remaining in the game. It marked the one time the Eagles made consecutive field goals.
Georgia State led by as many as seven in the first half before taking a 19-16 advantage into the break.
Georgia Southern last reached the NCAA Tournament in 1992 ... The Panthers shot 32.6 percent from the floor ... Markus Crider had eight points and seven rebounds for Georgia State.