Georgia State’s two-game road trip through Arkansas got off to a bad start with a 75-69 overtime loss to Arkansas State on Thursday.
The Panthers led for most of the game until no one defended Arkansas State’s Charles Waters on an inbounds play with 11 seconds left in regulation. He hit the layup to give the Red Wolves a 57-56 lead. Assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie said there was miscommunication between T.J. Shipes and Malik Benlevi on the play.
On Georgia State’s next possession Isaiah Williams hit one of two free throws to tie the game and send it to overtime.
But the Red Wolves opened overtime with two 3-pointers and Georgia State’s offense, without leading scorer Jeremy Hollowell for the final 7-plus minutes of regulation because he fouled out, couldn’t keep up.
In addition to the mental miscue on the inbounds play, Georgia State had 19 turnovers, including several in the final three minutes of regulation.
Now Georgia State (12-6, 5-4) must regroup and play at league leaders Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday. A loss would drop the Panthers to 5-5 in the Sun Belt with 10 conference games remaining.
First, before anything else, maybe the earth is flat
I say that because for the first time other than for perhaps a few minutes three years ago (I remember it happening, but can’t remember why), Georgia State abandoned its zone defense and played some man to man on Thursday.
Coach Ron Hunter has played zone defenses for a loooooong time, even in the past three games when teams were ripping it apart for a total of 32 3-pointers.
The change started on Thursday with the team playing a version of a box and one, with Isaiah Williams denying Devin Carter the ball. Carter, the team’s leading scorer with 17.3 points per game and 41.5 percent 3-point shooter, got just one shot (which he made) in the first half.
Then the team played a matchup zone/man to man for a possession or two, which helped them to a 25-19 rebounding advantage in the first half. Mixed with the press, Georgia State created 11 turnovers in the first half and held Arkansas State to 2-of-12 3-pointers.
Jeff Thomas took his turn on Carter to open the second half. After missing his first, he got another chance following an offensive rebound of that miss and hit that.
The tactic worked for a while on Carter but Sean Gardner began to take advantage of the space given him to hit his 3-pointers. Gardner finished with 13 points while Carter added 15.
Arkansas State shot 39.3 percent and hit 7-of-25 3-pointers.
Hollowell heats up…for a while
After struggling in the past two games (4-of-17), Hollowell found his stroke, sort of, in Jonesboro. He had his season average of 15 with 11 minutes left. No other Panther had more than six points.
However, Hollowell picked up his fourth foul with 11:02 left and the Panthers leading by nine.
The Red Wolves quickly cut the lead to one less than three minutes later.
Hollowell came back in with 7:57 left and his team mired in a four-minute scoreless streak.
Hunter’s gamble backfired when Hollowell picked up his fifth foul with 7:19 left.
For a team that was already struggling on offense, Hollowell’s absence made things that much worse.
Offensive issues continue
Georgia State shot 32.8 percent in the game, including 21.4 percent (3 of 14) on its 3-pointers.
Poor shooting and poor turnovers aren’t a combination for success.
The final few minutes were an example of the problems on offense.
Georgia State threw away an inbounds pass coming out of a timeout with 2:48 left. A possession wasted.
Later, Shipes, who had eight points and 11 rebounds, tried to thread a pass along the baseline that was stolen with 54 seconds left. Another possession wasted.
When they weren’t throwing away the ball, they were missing free throws.
Williams missed the potential game-winner in the final seconds of regulation. Kevin Ware could only hit 1-of-2 with 23 seconds left in the regulation.
Hunter gave Jeff Thomas another rotation in the starting lineup but he missed 10 of his 11 shots. Along with Ware (3 of 11) and Hollowell (4 of 12), three Georgia State starters combined to miss 26 of their 34 shots.