Three quick thoughts (I’m supposed to be watching football) about Georgia State’s 66-63 victory over IUPUI in men’s basketball. It was a bittersweet moment for coach Ron Hunter in his return to IUPUI, which he coached for 17 years before taking over at Georgia State before the 2011 -12 season.
“It was great to come home,” Hunter said, “but now I’m ready to go to my real home in Atlanta.”
Hunter said the team (5-2) was mentally and physically exhausted after finishing the last game in a 10-day, five-game road trip.
The problems aren’t worked out yet. A three-game winning streak in which the team played well seemed to have masked over some of the issues that surfaced in losing two of its first three games. Those problems resurfaced on Saturday. The Panthers once again had no one step up to take the scoring load off R.J. Hunter (27 points) and Ryan Harrow, who combined to score 48 of the team’s points. No one else scored more than six. Other than Ware, who scored the six points, no one shot more than seven times. Can’t score if you don’t shoot. “We had to gut it out,” Ron Hunter said.
R.J. Hunter hit a 3-pointer with 44 seconds left to give the Panthers a two-point lead. It was his lone 3-pointer. He did hit 10 of 11 from the free-throw line.
Big problems inside. Marcus Crider, so effective during the winning streak in twice setting a career-high for points, picked up two quick fouls in the first half and wasn’t the same player on offense after that. T.J. Shipes was also less effective than in the streak with just two points and four rebounds. Curtis Washington started well with three points and three rebounds in the opening minutes. But as he usually does, Washington quickly faded and added no more points and just one rebound in the game’s remaining 33 minutes. The Panthers were outrebounded by 10 and won because they simply took more shots.
The offense had to rally in the final few minutes to overcome a six-point deficit. They did it with free throws, hitting 18 of 24 in the game.
Defense is so-so. The Panthers played great interior defense (I recognized the disconnect between Washington’s stats and the play inside) in the first half, but the Jags woke up in the second half and hit 53.3 percent of their shots, including an amazing 8 of 15 3-point attempts. The Panthers missed 11 of their 13 3-point attempts.