Undone by poor rebounding and free-throw shooting, the Georgia State men’s basketball team was beaten by Ole Miss 68-59 on Wednesday in Oxford.
Jeremy Hollowell led the team with 23 points, including two free throws with 2:18 left that cut Ole Miss’ lead to two points before the Rebels won it by hitting free throws, while the Panthers didn’t hit enough of their’s.
“We have to get better, but I like where we are headed,” Georgia State (2-1) coach Ron Hunter said.
Hunter said the game turned on a goaltending call with 3:40 when Markus Crider was called for basket interference after dunking a rebound off a miss by Isaiah Dennis. Had the correct call been made, Crider’s basket would have cut Ole Miss’ lead to three.
Here are three things I learned watching the game.
Hard to win when you don’t rebound
The Rebels outrebounded the Panthers 39-20.
As many of you have followed the program since coach Ron Hunter took over, in many of Georgia State’s losses they are outrebounded (seven of 10 losses last year it happened; Panthers were outrebounded in 18 of 35 games overall). It’s often because the team plays zone defenses exclusively, which allows for space inside that opponents will often attack. The Rebels did that frequently, forcing two of the few big men the team has, Crider and T.J. Shipes, into foul trouble that made it even easier for them to keep going inside.
Surprisingly, Ole Miss didn’t turn that gigantic advantage into as much offense as you would think, with nine second-chance points to Georgia State’s five and 28 points in the paint to Georgia State’s 24. Still, it kept possessions alive for the Rebels and fewer chances for Georgia State.
Hard to win you don’t hit free throws
The Panthers missed nine of their 20 free throws, including several key ones during the final minutes when the team was trying to rally.
Interestingly, Isaiah Dennis, not Isaiah Williams, did some of the ball-handling during the final few minutes. Hunter said before the season that Williams could be the point guard in the final minutes because of his ability to hit free throws. Dennis is a great defender but poor free-throw shooter and he missed two with 1:08 left and the Panthers trailing by six. He missed five of six in the game. Free throws weren’t the only issue: Williams missed back-to-back layups in the first half, neither of which were defended.
Unlike the rebounding problem, the Panthers have typically been a good free-throw shooting team.
Guard play needs to improve
Hunter said the guard play needs to get better. Starters Williams and Kevin Ware were a combined 4-of-11 with three turnovers and five assists. Dennis came off the bench and hit 4-of-7. Freshman Jeff Thomas continued to struggle. He hit his first 3-pointer, airballed the second and missed the third and fourth.