Georgia State wins exhibition opener


To no one’s surprise, Georgia State demolished Oglethorpe 85-34 on Monday in their opening exhibition game at the GSU Sports Arena.

The Panthers will host Middle Georgia on Friday in their regular-season opener.

Here are five observations from Georgia State’s win over the Stormy Petrels:

The new faces

The Panthers featured seven players seeing their first playing time under coach Ron Hunter.

Jeremy Hollowell, a transfer from Indiana who sat out last year, made the biggest impression in his first start. He finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Jeff Thomas, who redshirted last year and is considered the heir to R.J. Hunter as the team’s best 3-point shooter, missed his first five 3-pointers before draining the sixth. He smiled as he ran back up the court. He also started and finished as the team’s leading scorer with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting.

Isaiah Williams, a transfer from Samford who sat out last year, looked like he’s still finding his timing, something Ron Hunter said was possible last week. He finished with five points and two assists.

Malik Benlevi, a freshman swing man, hit his first shot, a 3-pointer and looked comfortable on offense and defense. He scored 13 points with five rebounds.

Austin Donaldson, a freshman guard, played the fewest minutes. He finished with two points.

The old faces

There were a few returnees from last year’s NCAA tournament team, notably Kevin Ware, Markus Crider, Isaiah Dennis, T.J. Shipes and Jordan Session. Ware, Dennis and Crider started.

Hunter said that Ware would look like a different player than he did last year when he usually deferred on offense to R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow. Hunter was right. Ware was very aggressive on offense with his drives and passes. Ware finished with seven points and three assists.

Crider continued to look smooth in the high post. He finished with 11 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Dennis’ jump shot looked much smoother than it did last year. He hit a jumper from the baseline in the first half. He finished with 11 points and three assists.

Shipes continued to let his hair grow (18 months since he has cut it) and scrap for rebounds and loose balls.

Session looked rusty at first with a turnover and passes that he didn’t react to before getting into the flow midway through the second half.

Steals a plenty

Ware started it by stealing Oglethorpe’s pass off the first inbounds. After being called with a charge, Ware stole the next inbounds. Then Dennis had a steal, then Crider, then Thomas. You get the idea.

The Panthers had seven steals in the first six minutes, during which they built a 20-0 lead.

Ron Hunter wasn’t satisfied. Leading 34-9, Jeff Thomas had a chance to dive for a loose ball on defense and didn’t, allowing an Oglethorpe player to get it. Hunter screamed at Thomas, “Get the ball.”

The Panthers forced 21 turnovers in the first half in building a 43-9 lead.

Georgia State forced 32 turnovers with 20 steals.

More defense

When they weren’t stealing the ball, the Panthers forced a shot-clock violation and a back-court violation.

The student section eventually started chanting, “Will they score?” They did on a Will Perry jumper with 10:21 left in the half.

Oglethorpe shot 26.8 percent from the field, missing 30 of their 41 shots.

Free throws

The Panthers weren’t good from the line, hitting 16 of 27. They hit 72.5 percent last season.

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