Ron Hunter became the third coach in Georgia State history to win 100 games after a 59-56 victory over Texas State on Thursday at the GSU Sports Arena.
He can thank a tough defense and Markus Crider. The senior scored a career-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting to help the Panthers snap a three-game losing streak.
Georgia State’s defense held Texas State without a point for a stretch of almost eight minutes in the second half. During the span the Panthers turned a seven-point deficit into a six-point lead.
Still, Georgia State couldn’t shake Texas State.
Kevin Ware’s first field goal, coming on a tough layup, gave Georgia State a 57-54 lead with 1:39 left.
After a foul by T.J. Shipes, Texas State’s Kavin Tilbury-Gilder hit two free throws to cut Georgia State’s lead to 57-56 with 1:27 left.
Ware stole a poor cross-court pass by Texas State and was fouled with 20.5 seconds remaining. Georgia State had not yet reached the bonus, resulting in Texas State fouling Crider with 12.3 seconds left, which put them in the bonus. He hit both to give Georgia State a 59-56 lead.
Texas State missed a 3-pointer to end the game.
The Panthers (13-7, 6-5 Sun Belt) will try for their second consecutive win when they host Texas-Arlington on Saturday and try to keep pressure on league leaders Arkansas-Little Rock and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Hunter said he had no idea of his milestone until told by sports information director Mike Holmes as the two walked from the court to the interview room. He said he was going to try to find the ball used in the game to keep as a memento.
Here are six observations about the game.
Markus Crider rallies. Crider, a senior who has struggled with consistency on offense, led the team with 11 points in the first half on 5-of-6 shooting.
Twice in the previous three games he had scored just two points.
He made shots from all over the court on Thursday and was notably aggressive driving to the basket, something missing from his game for most of the season.
He added four rebounds.
Crider scored 11 of his team’s 15 points during a key stretch in the second half during which the Panthers grabbed an eight-point lead.
Crider said he wanted to be more aggressive than he has been this season.
Hunter said they made a few changes on offense to try to give Crider more room to move. He and Shipes weren’t on the court at the same time a lot on offense because Hunter said Shipes tends to clog up the space that Crider needs.
Jeremy Hollowell. Hollowell, who didn’t play last year because he is transferred in from Indiana, has struggled in the past five games during which he averaged 12.4 points on 34 percent shooting.
His struggles continued in the first half on Thursday during which he went 1-of-6 and two rebounds.
Hollowell drilled a 3-pointer to break a scoreless string to open the second half, but then committed a turnover on the next possession, and was called for a charge on the next. A few minutes later, he was called for another charge.
He finished with 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting.
Efficiency of offense. Added together, the Panthers had a stretch of more than 15 minutes without a field goal in their previous game at Arkansas-Little Rock.
Things weren’t as bad in the first half Thursday, but the second half didn’t start well. The Panthers went more than five minutes without a field goal. Texas State went on a 9-0 run during that stretch to take a 42-35 lead.
Georgia State quickly rallied with a 6-0 run to cut Texas State’s lead to 45-44. Shipes pinned a layup against the backboard and found Malik Benlevi down the court for a fastbreak layup and 46-44 lead. Crider hit a short bankshot to increase the lead to 48-45.
The team hit 21-of-46, including 4-of-10 3-pointers.
Transition offense. This remains an issue. One play in the first half, after a Shipes steal, Isaiah Dennis began dribbling down the court with teammates on either wing. Rather than passing, he instead drove to the basket, running over a Texas State defender for a charge. Such is Georgia State’s transition game.
Georgia State finished with eight fast-break points.
“We are who we are,” Hunter said.
3-point defense. Texas State was without Ethan Montalvo for most of the teams’ previous meeting because he suffered an injury in the opening minutes. Without Montalvo, a 39.1 percent 3-point shooter, the Bobcats missed 17 of 20 3-pointers.
The Bobcats hit more 3-pointers in the first half (4) than they did the whole of the previous game between the teams.
Those shots stopped falling in the second half. As the Panthers built their lead, the Bobcats’ 3-point accuracy fell to 6-of-17 with 3:53 remaining.
They finished hitting 6-of-18 and got no points from the bench.
Jeff Thomas and Malik Benlevi a spark. Freshmen Thomas and Benlevi provided sparks in different ways.
Thomas scored eight points in the first half on 3-of-4 shooting. Benlevi, who is steadily earning more playing time, came in as a sub and stole the ball on Texas State’s next two possessions. Those turnovers were turned into four points.
But the problem with freshmen is they can commit silly penalties. Benlevi was guilty of one that turned into a three-point play and cut Georgia State’s lead to 55-52 with 2:50 left.
Thomas finished with eight points. Benlevi added two points, two rebounds and two steals.