Georgia State was beaten by Georgia Southern 58-54 on Thursday at Hanner Fieldhouse in Statesboro.
It was a bad loss for several reasons, starting with it was Georgia State’s (15-8,, 8-4) fourth in the conference this season.
A season that started with thoughts of topping last year’s 17-1 record with an unbeaten run are long gone.
Now, the race is on to just to secure one of the Sun Belt’s top two seeds in the conference tournament so that the Panthers can enjoy a bye that lasts until the semifinals.
Georgia State has eight games left to make that happen.
But back to last night’s game.
Georgia State lost despite limiting the Eagles’ leading scorer to almost six points below his season average, and their second-leading scorer to almost four points below his season average.
So why did they lose?
Neither Ryan Harrow nor R.J. Hunter looked comfortable against the Eagles, one of the better defensive teams in the conference. Hunter scored seven consecutive points in the first half, but that was it for the opening period. He had just two field goals in the second half. One of his misses was an ill-advised long 3-pointer that he didn’t need to take and probably should have resulted in him being benched.
Harrow hit a few mid-range jumpers, but had great difficulty finding seams in half-court sets to get to the basket for short jumpers or to draw fouls, or both.
Hunter missed seven of his nine 3-point attempts; Harrow all three of his.
Markus Crider was the only reliable option on offense because Kevin Ware, like Harrow, couldn’t get to the basket, either. Ware’s only basket was a jumper late. Curtis Washington had a solid stretch defensively in the first half, but looked very uncomfortable on offense. He finished with two points. T.J. Shipes had one of his worst games this season with just two points.
Part of Georgia State’s inability to finish games is its inability to keep opponents from owning the offensive rebounds in the second halves of games.
The Eagles grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, eight in the second half, to stay in the game.
To be fair, a few came on long misses from errant 3-pointers.
But either long or short, the rebounds still give the Eagles enough second, third and fourth chances to complete the rally.
Shipes grabbed just one defensive rebound in 18 minutes. Washington had five in 22 minutes. Crider six in 35.Harrow and Green had three in 50 minutes.
Just poor play
There were two plays that exemplified how out-of-synch the Panthers were on Thursday. The first was Hunter’s long missed 3-pointer.
The second also involved Hunter, projected to be a first-round pick in the NBA draft should he leave school one year early.
Hunter hit a 3-pointer in the corner to pull the Panthers back to within two with less two minutes remaining.
Switching to defense, Hunter went for a steal and missed. Instead of avoiding Mike Hughes, Hunter kept pushing into him trying to get the steal.
The official correctly called a foul, giving Hughes and the Eagles a free opportunity to take a four-point lead.
All Georgia State needed was a stop and it would have had a chance, with more than a minute left, to at least tie the game.
Hughes hit both.
Georgia State lost its chance to win.