An 8-2 spurt from Dalton State midway through the second half could have been the spark of a comeback.
Then, visiting Tennessee Southern showed why it’s the 10th-ranked team in the country and in first place in the Southern States Athletic Conference.
UT Southern, which entered Saturday’s game at Dalton State undefeated in conference play and on a 16-game winning streak, slammed the door, ran away from the Roadrunners and ran that win streak up to 17.
Visiting UT Southern pulled away from Dalton State 79-55 to get to 21-2 overall and 15-0 in SSAC action. Dalton State, which played well with the visiting Firehawks through most of the first half in an upset bid, fell to 13-8 and 9-5 in the league, losing their own four-game win streak in the process.
The game was played relatively evenly early on, even with UT Southern hitting deep shots and Dalton State not. Southern hit 7-of-11 3-pointers to start the game, and Dalton State missed its first nine from deep.
A spurt near the end of the first half put the visitors up 37-26.
A cold start to the second half for Dalton State marked a rising lead for Southern.
The lead grew to 19 before that 8-2 Dalton State stretch, which temporarily galvanized a raucous and full crowd inside the small-capacity Bandy Gymnasium at Dalton State as the advantage trimmed to 13.
But the Firehawks fired back with an 8-1 spurt of their own, made the lead grow above 20 for the first time and flew away with the win. A breakaway dunk made the score 75-49 with 2:09 left, and backups from both sides entered the game.
3-point and free throw shooting helped make the difference between Dalton State and UT Southern on an afternoon in which both teams shot well from inside the arc.
Dalton State hit just 2-of-15 from deep, missing its first nine before Matt Compas hit one in the second half. UT Southern went 11-for-25, making several in key spots to cut off a Roadrunner run or extend its own.
The Roadrunners shot 19 free throws to Southern’s 12, but DSC went 11-for-19 and the Firehawks made 10-of-12.
DSC also lost the rebounding battle 33-23, allowing 11 offensive boards.
Dalton State, on a down shooting night, stuck with the visitors with some tough defense early, but, once the shots started falling, the Roadrunners didn’t have much of an answer for one of the hottest teams in the country.
Compas was the only Roadrunner to score in double-figures with 13 and led Dalton State with seven rebounds, but he also helped a teammate reach a career accomplishment early in the game.
Starting senior point guard Donavan Miller came into the game tied for the most career assists in a Roadrunner uniform at 261 with former standout Sean Tate.
On the Roadrunners’ first possession, Miller drove and dished to Compas, who stuck a baseline jumper to help Miller set the new career mark just 18 seconds into the game. Miller finished with nine points and six more assists to put the new Dalton State assist mark at 267 and counting.
Carterius Evans and Kawasiki Ricks each scored eight.
Kendall Wright led Southern with 20.
Dalton State aims to bounce back from the loss to No. 10 with a Thursday home game against Loyola at 7:30 p.m.