3 thoughts after Georgia State loses Sun Belt opener

Georgia State head basketball coach Ron Huner. (Doug Roberson / AJC)

Georgia State head basketball coach Ron Huner. (Doug Roberson / AJC)

It’s generally not a good sign when the theme after playing the season’s first conference game is that there are 19 more and championships aren’t won yet.

But the fact that there are many more to play was one of the few positives after Georgia State was outshot, outrun and outplayed by Texas-Arlington in an 85-70 loss on Wednesday in Texas. The list is very short, but this was the Panthers’ worst conference defeat since re-joining the Sun Belt before the 2013-14 season.

The loss snaps Georgia State’s (7-3, 0-1) four-game win streak and wastes a 21-point effort from redshirt freshman Jeff Thomas.

The Panthers will take on Texas State on Saturday.

Here are three things learned while listening to the game (it wasn’t on TV):

The Mavericks can shoot

UTA ripped apart Georgia State’s zone defense with 11 3-pointers on 27 attempts. They were hitting 31 percent of those shots before Wednesday. This kind of performance where a team gets hot from outside happens to Georgia State once or twice a season. This is the third time it has happened this season. The difference is the Panthers won the other two against IUPUI (10 of 22) and Wright State (9 of 21).

Texas-Arlington pulled away despite leading player Kevin Hervey picking up two fouls early in the first half. He finished with 17 points and eight rebounds.

Georgia State’s offense regressed

It seemed that the Panthers had things figured out on offense with the insertion of Isaiah Williams at point guard, but they couldn’t get into a rhythm in the first half against the Mavs’ 2-3 zone. Williams finished with two assists and missed eight of his 10 shots.

Not until the Mavs were threatening to blow out the Panthers did the offense get going with Thomas, who hit 7 of his 12 3-point attempts. Without Thomas, the Panthers hit just one of their eight 3-point shots.

Most concerning was Jeremy Hollowell struggles. The team’s leading scorer (15.6 points per game), he missed seven of his eight shots and finished with three points.

 

Changing of the guard?

I know I poked a little fun with the first sentence, but it is too early to say that Georgia State can’t or won’t defend its back-to-back Sun Belt regular season titles. This is still a team that is finding its way with several new players on offense who haven’t faced Sun Belt opponents and have no experience from which to draw.

However, Georgia State must work to improve a few things, starting with its transition defense. Several times the Mavericks quickly got down the floor and shot open 3-pointers before Georgia State could settle into its spots on defense. Other teams will try to copy this technique.

Georgia State must settle down its rotations in the zones. I’ve seen this first hand and it sounded like it was occurring on Wednesday: when teams start to rotate the ball and it comes back across the court into the corner, three Georgia State players will rush at the shooter, leaving two players to try to outrebound four. The Mavericks grabbed 13 offensive rebounds, which they could only turn into seven points, which is a sign of Georgia State’s ability to recover. But it’s a bad sign that Georgia State was outrebounded by 16 in the game. Coach Ron Hunter sometimes gets frustrated with me when I ask about the rebounding, but when a team gets 16 more opportunities, that’s 16 more times the defense has to make a stop and 16 less times Georgia State’s offense gets to try to score.


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