JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Baylor was in complete control, and then it fell apart in the final three minutes. It was quite the surprise for coach Scott Drew.
No. 3 seed Baylor was unable to handle Georgia State’s full-court defensive pressure down the stretch and lost 57-56 on R.J. Hunter’s long 3-pointer in the closing seconds of their NCAA Tournament game on Thursday.
Rico Gathers’ two foul shots with 2:54 left put Baylor up by 12, but the Bears (24-10) didn’t score again. They finished with 21 turnovers.
“The thing I’m disappointed with is all year long we’ve executed down the stretch,” Drew said. “We’ve been a tough team, and I feel bad the way that the last five minutes went.”
Hunter’s 3 with 2.7 seconds remaining capped the comeback for No. 14 seed Georgia State and knocked his proud father, coach Ron Hunter, right off his seat.
With dad working the sideline in a rolling chair less than a week after tearing his left Achilles tendon while celebrating the Sun Belt Conference championship, R.J. shrugged off a slow start to come through when his team needed him the most.
Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year Taurean Prince had 18 points and 15 rebounds for Baylor.
Pesky Georgia State (25-9) forced three crucial turnovers as Hunter scored nine in a row during the closing surge, including a 3-pointer that brought chants of “R.J. 3! R.J. 3! R.J. 3!” from Panthers fans at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
The junior guard’s steal and layup trimmed Baylor’s lead to 56-53, and he drained another NBA-range 3 for the win after the Bears’ Kenny Chery missed the front end of a 1-and-1 that could have put the game away.
“He just made a contested 3. There was nothing we could do about it. We did our job and he just made it,” Chery said.
Baylor, which also squandered a double-digit lead in the first half, appeared to be in good shape after Royce O’Neale and Lester Medford made 3-pointers during a 12-1 burst that turned a one-point deficit into a 52-42 lead. But the Bears couldn’t finish the job.
“We’ve been preparing all season for moments like these,” O’Neale said of the shot that ended the Bears’ season. “He just made a good shot.”
Georgia State: The Panthers are making their third appearance in the NCAAs, but their first since 2001 when the Lefty Driesell-coached team was a No. 11 seed and upset No. 6 Wisconsin in its opening game. The other appearance was as a No. 16 seed in 1991.
Baylor: The Bears won at least two games in each of their past three trips to the NCAA Tournament. They reached the Elite Eight before losing to Duke in 2010. They advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2012 and 2014, losing to Kentucky three years ago and Wisconsin last season.
BALANCED SCORING, BUT NOT ENOUGH
Prince was the only Baylor player to score in double figures. Gathers, O’Neale and Chery all added nine. Gathers also had 10 rebounds.
Georgia State: The Panthers face Xavier on Saturday.
Baylor: Three of Thursday’s five starters are underclassmen, including Gathers. Prince also is a junior.
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