RICHMOND, Va. – Senior forward Courtney Hurt paced three VCU players in double figure scoring, providing 28 points and 20 rebounds, and helped fuel a critical 20-3 second half run en route to a 75-70 victory against visiting Georgia State Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
Trailing by four at the break, VCU (12-8, 5-4 CAA) scored 27 of the first 34 points in the second half and built a 16-point advantage with 11:33 remaining. Georgia State (6-14, 0-9 CAA) later cut a 12-point deficit in half with less than 2:30 to play, but could only pull within five twice the rest of the game, including 75-70 on a layup with 17 seconds to go.
"We're glad to finish the week with a win here at home," said VCU Head Coach Beth Cunningham, whose team has won six of its last seven home games. "We had a stretch there in the second half that put us over the hump and gave us a little bit of a lead. But that's a pesky Georgia State team that came out and fought us to the end. We're pleased to get back on the winning track."
Hurt (pictured, left) posted her third career 20-20 game, second of the season, to go along with four assists and two steals. Senior Andrea Barbour added 15 points and freshman Aprill McRae chipped in 12 in 28 minutes off the bench.
VCU, which picked up its 13th straight win against Georgia State, got off to a slow start early, hitting just three of its first 15 from the field, and the Panthers jumped out to an 11-6 advantage less than eight minutes in. A triple from junior Robyn Hobson halted the spurt before Barbour (pictured, below) reeled off five straight to put VCU ahead 14-11 with 10:30 left.
The lead would change hands four more times over the next two minutes before VCU regained its four-point advantage following an and-one by Barbour with 7:43 showing.
Georgia State wouldn't go away, however, and used a 12-2 run spanning nearly three minutes to take its largest lead of the game at 31-25 on a layup by Jerlisa Taylor.
The Rams cut the deficit to two three times before the half, including when Hurt made it 35-33 on a jumper with 1:05 to go. But the Panthers grabbed a defensive rebound off a missed VCU triple and Kendra Long hit a layup with 10.1 seconds left to give Georgia State a four-point lead at the break.
VCU caught fire to start the second stanza, hitting seven of eight from the field, and used a 20-3 run to take its largest lead at the time, 13 points, with 13:39 remaining. Hurt scored 11 during the run, including five straight to start the half.
"We came out and had a stretch there where our defensive pressure and intensity caused some turnovers," Cunningham said. "We were able to rebound and get some easy baskets in transition. That's probably the biggest difference [compared to the first half] and what got us going on the offensive end."
The Rams pushed their lead to 60-44 on a fast break layup from Hobson with 11:33 to go.
Trailing by 16 with 10:06 showing, Georgia State slowly chipped away and made it a nine-point game with 3:28 left.
Hurt nailed a turnaround jumper as the shot clock expired to push VCU's lead back to 71-59 with 2:23 showing, but the Panthers scored six straight to cut the deficit to six with less than a minute to go. Georgia State could only pull within five twice the rest of the way as VCU hit 4 of 6 from the line.
Chan Harris scored a team-high 13 points off the bench for Georgia State, while Miranda Smith added 12, and Long and Cody Paulk chipped in 10 apiece.
"We definitely needed to get this win," said Cunningham. "With the way this conference is, it doesn't get any easier. It's a constant battle and everyone is fighting for position. We need to find a way to get that first win at Towson [on Thursday] before we can look any farther down the road."
VCU travels to Towson on Feb. 2 for a 7 p.m. tipoff against the Tigers. The Rams then face #16 Delaware on the road Feb. 5.