The Georgia State men’s basketball team fell to Louisiana-Lafayette 84-80 on Thursday.
The Panthers blew a 17-point lead in the first half and have now dropped two consecutive games in the Sun Belt after losing just two in the entirety of conference and tournament play last year.
Georgia State will host Troy on Saturday in what should be another tough game.
The free throws. A few of you on twitter were incensed in the difference in the free throws shot last night. The Cajuns shot 38 to the Panthers 17. That’s a fairly large difference, one that wasn’t helped by yet another technical foul on Ryan Harrow, at least his third in the past two weeks. I understand the aggravation with officials, but as I noted on Twitter last night most coaches believe that all the foul calls balance out by year’s end (unless you are the Detroit Lions). This year before Thursday’s game, Georgia State has a difference of 16 more free throws shot at home compared to their opponents, including a plus-19 difference in their opener against Tennessee Temple.
If the Panthers want to get to the line more, they need to drive to the basket more often to increase the likelihood of fouls being called. As an example, Cajuns forwards Devonta Walker, Shawn Long and Brian Williams, each of whom played around the basket most of the night, combined for 22 free throws.
Georgia State’s T.J. Shipes, Markus Crider and we will throw in Curtis Washington because he played 16 minutes, combined for five. Some of that is the result of the Panthers’ offensive system, which is focusing more on perimeter scoring and the guards because they have proven they can consistently score. Some of that is Crider, Shipes and Washington need to put themselves in positions on offense to get the ball more and increase the likelihood of drawing fouls.
Hunter finds his stroke. After missing all 10 of his 3-pointers in the overtime loss to Texas State on Monday, R.J. Hunter bounced back to hit five of nine 3-pointers as part of a game-high 27 points against the Cajuns. Overall, he hit 8-of-17 shots with six assists and three rebounds. Harrow chipped in with 25, but as has happened in most of Georgia State’s losses this year everyone else had a lot of trouble scoring. The only player to hit double digits was T.J. Shipes, who had 10.
Hunter and Harrow combined to take 38 of the team’s 59 shots. No one else took more than seven as the hunt for a consistent third scorer seems unlikely at this point.
In Georgia State’s losses, Hunter and Harrow have combined to take 229 of the team’s 361 shots (63 percent). No other player has scored more than 14 in those losses. That’s not finger-pointing at that duo because they are the only consistent scorers. For the season, Harrow (254) and Hunter (227) have taken more than twice as many shots as the team’s third-more shooter, Kevin Ware (103).
In the wins, Hunter and Harrow have combined to take 252 of the team’s 472 shots (53 percent). Here’s what’s weird, in three of those losses no other Georgia State player scored at least 10 points. So, either the team’s defense was better in these games, the scoring more balanced, the defense was the same but the other team wasn’t shooting well or it’s just a statistical oddity.
Another close loss. The team lost another close game, another that it could be argued should have been won. Tack that on to losses at Colorado State, Old Dominion and Texas State as the team struggles to close out victories.
There are a couple of issues: No. 1, the lack of a go-to inside scorer, noted above.(Most teams don’t have that, though).
No. 2, the team doesn’t have a true point guard. It has fantastic scoring guards, but no one who can cause defenses to think as the point guard moves around the floor trying to create space, passing angles or shots. As a result, Georgia State has fewer choices when it’s looking for points, and defenses have easier plans to follow.
The problem isn’t going to be fixed this year because, as noted above, Hunter and Harrow are the team’s only consistent scoring options. Ron Hunter has his work cut out trying to find someone who can fill that role, or at least come up with something to overcome the issue.
Many of you will remember that last year Harrow and Devonta White split time at the point early in the season. It didn’t work well. Hunter put the ball back in White’s hands at point most of the time and the offense began to click. Harrow, driving and dishing, still racked up 144 assists, just three less than White. So, that off-guard role seems best for him as long as teammates are cutting to the basket or knocking down 3-pointers, as was the case last year.
If R.J. Hunter plays a point-forward it becomes easier for the defenses to find him, but it would put the ball in his hands more.
Harrow could try to become more of a traditional point guard, but that might limit his scoring. The trade-off is it might get more players involved in the offense, even if it means dragging them.
Or, Kevin Ware can be put back into the starting lineup as a point guard and they can see what happens.