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SPSU Hornets clip top opponent in SSAC showdown

Three weeks ago, SPSU’s No. 4-ranked Hornets left Rome, Ga., with a loss provided by Shorter University's No. 1-ranked Hawks. On Mon., Feb. 13, armed with the same national rankings, it was SPSU that came away on top.

SPSU’s Bobby Smith poured in 30 points, the Hornets hit 15 three-pointers and fourth-ranked SPSU upset newly crowned No. 1 Shorter 87-84 in a pivotal Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) showdown in Marietta.

Shorter (24-2, 14-1), which appeared at No. 1 in the newest national poll released Monday night, fell in conference play for the first time this season. The Hawks also missed an opportunity to clinch the East Division's No. 1 seed, which they would have done with a win over the Hornets.

SPSU (21-4, 12-2) avenged its 74-65 loss to Shorter on Jan. 19. The Hornets did so by shooting 41 percent on 37 attempts from the three-point line and rallying from an 11-point second deficit at the half.

Shorter led by as much as 14 points in the game. The Hawks, behind five first-half three-pointers and 21 first-half points from Walter Hill, took a 28-14 lead with just under 10 minutes left until halftime.

SPSU righted the ship with the help of the three-point shot. The Hornets hit seven treys to pull within 44-41 at halftime and then exploded for eight more in the second half to put themselves in position for the upset.

SPSU took its first lead of the second half on a 9-0 run powered by a flurry of three-point shots. The Hornets’ Smith hit treys on back-to-back possessions to tie the game at 64, then, after a Shorter turnover, SPSU’s Trey Payne connected from deep to put the Hornets up 67-64 with 8:45 to go.

SPSU got the score up to 80-73 with two minutes left, but Shorter had one last push as it turned to full-court pressure. Dante Harvey, who finished with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, converted a steal into a dunk to draw Shorter within four and after SPSU 's Jesse Childs threw the ball out of bounds on the Hornets' ensuing possession, Hill drilled a three-pointer from the wing with 34 seconds left to bring the Hawks within 83-82.

Smith made two free throws to give the Hornets a three-point lead, and Hill, who scored just three points after halftime, misfired on a potential game-tying three with 7.2 seconds left. Ashton Pitts made two from the foul line to seal the win for SPSU.

Shorter turned the ball over 18 times and although the rebounding totals wound up even at 38, SPSU grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. The Hawks shot 52 percent for the game, but were outscored by 15 points from the three-point line in the second half as Poly drained eight of 15 from beyond the arc in the deciding frame.

Pitts finished with 16 points and Childs with 15 for SPSU, which now stands one game back of Shorter for first in the East Division standings with three conference games remaining. The Hornets take on No. 14 Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., tonight, and Truett McConnell College at home on Sat., Feb. 18 at 4 p.m.

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