GREENWOOD – The Lander Bearcats trailed by 11 points with 2:45 left, rallied to force overtime behind a brilliant performance by Rahu Purdie but fell to Fayetteville State 97-92 at the Finis Horne Holiday Classic on Friday night at Horne Arena.
The Broncos made only 20 of 37 free throws in regulation including several misses down the stretch, helping Lander make a comeback. Fayetteville State missed five free throws from the 2:04 mark to 36 seconds left.
The Bearcats fell to 2-2 on the season and face Livingstone Saturday at 3:30 in the second day of the Horne Classic. Fayetteville State (3-3) will face Armstrong State in Saturday's first game at 1:30.
Armstrong State beat Livingstone 80-76 in Friday's Horne Classic opener.
Purdie scored 15 of his 27 points in the last two minutes and 37 seconds of regulation before fouling out, JR Washington added a double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out late in overtime, and Jarryd Coleman scored 12 points.
Michael Tyson led FSU with 24 points, Josh Bryant added 19, Carl McCray 17 and Willie Elmore 12. Bryant and William Tibbs led the Broncos with eight rebounds apiece while Elmore had six assists.
The Bearcats made 29 of 68 shots from the floor (43 percent), 25 of 35 free throws (71 percent) and nine of 25 from behind the 3-point line (31 percent).
FSU made 31 of 58 shots (53 percent), 31 of 51 free throws (61 percent) and four of 10 from behind the arc (40 percent) while holding a slim 40-39 edge on the boards.
Tyson's second basket in a row capped a 10-1 Fayetteville State run as the visitors built a 28-22 advantage just inside the seven-minute mark. McCray's long 3 gave the Broncos a 33-26 lead with 5:15 to go.
Lander scored eight unanswered points to move back on top with three minutes left in the half. Jordan Dingle scored inside, Washington made two of three free throws, Dingle hit both free throws, and Purdie gave the Bearcats a 33-32 lead with a jumper near the free-throw line. Chris Tate's blocked shot helped keep Fayetteville State off the scoreboard during that run.
McCray hit another 3 at the 2:46 mark to end the run as the Broncos closed the half by outscoring Lander 13-5. FSU led 44-37 at the break.
The Bearcats seemed to gather some momentum after the 15-minute mark of the second half when Coleman hit a 3 from in front of the Lander bench and Purdie nailed a 3 from the left side to pull the hosts from a nine-point deficit to within 52-49. But the Bearcats missed a few opportunities inside and Fayetteville State was able to stretch its lead.
Sergio Smith's basket in the paint cut Lander's deficit to 56-53 with 10:18 to go. However, the Bearcats went into a prolonged scoring drought.
The Broncos took their first double-digit lead of the game on Bryant's layup making it 63-53 at the five-minute mark.
Lander's six-minute scoring drought ended on Coleman's second 3 of the game with 4:23 left. But FSU took a 67-56 advantage inside the four-minute mark on Bryant's dunk off a turnover.
Purdie's driving layup pulled the Bearcats within 68-60 with 3:09 to go. But Fayetteville State would match its biggest lead of the game at 71-60 with 2:44 left, seemingly having the game well in hand.
But Purdie added another driving basket, a steal that led to a foul where he made one of two free throws, and another quick sprint to the basket for a layup as Lander still trailed 74-65 with 2:10 left.
Bryant's two free throws gave the Broncos a 78-70 lead with 1:30 to go. But Purdie continued his torrid scoring at the other end, pulling Lander within 78-72 with his ninth and 10th points in just over a minute of action. Then Washington hit a long 3 to cut it to 78-75 with a minute to go.
Purdie hit another 3 that pulled the Bearcats within 82-80 at the 40-second mark before fouling out.
Gilmore made one of two free throws to keep the game at one possession at 83-80. Lander's Telvin Gabriel stole the ball and scored on a driving layup to pull the hosts within 83-82 with 25 seconds to go.
After the Broncos again made only one of two free throws, Washington drove hard to the basket and was fouled with 10.7 seconds left. Washington made both free throws to tie it at 84 and teammate Dingle collected a steal a few seconds later but the Bearcats could not convert as the game went into overtime.
Washington's driving layup off Smith's steal gave Lander an 88-87 lead with 3:20 left in OT.
Lander clung to a 90-89 lead with 58.5 seconds to go when Tyson hit two free throws to put FSU back on top. Tyson hit two more at the stripe for a 93-90 Broncos advantage with 40 seconds to go.
Coleman's driving layup pulled the Bearcats within 93-92 with 30 seconds left. It was Lander's first basket in almost three minutes.
Bryant missed two free throws on the other end, including an air ball on the first attempt as Lander had a chance to take the lead. But Washington missed a driving shot under the basket and FSU got the rebound. This time, with 12.1 seconds to go, Bryant made two free throws for a 95-92 Broncos lead.
Washington's off-balance 3-point attempt with three seconds left bounced off the rim and FSU came up with the big defensive rebound. Bryant added a pair of free throws with 2.6 seconds to go to clinch the victory.