Instead of closing the regular season with a bang, Georgia State was dumped by Louisiana-Monroe 91-78 on Saturday.
The Panthers (16-13, 9-11) gave up a season-high in points on defense, saw a return of the long, scoreless stretches that plagued the offense during its mid-season losing streak, and generally didn’t look like a team motivated for an upcoming conference tournament.
Here are three observations about the game.
The sixth seed. With a win, the Panthers had a chance to secure the fifth seed in New Orleans. Instead, the Panthers will go in as the sixth seed. Either way, they will have to win four games in four days to make it back to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year.
There is precedence for making it that far.
Six teams seeded sixth or lower have made it to the championship game. Western Kentucky won it as the seventh seed in 2012 and the sixth seed in 2013. South Alabama lost in the title game in 2009.
Who will Georgia State play. The Panthers will play Texas State at 8:15 p.m. Thursday. The Panthers swept the Bobcats.
The offense. Georgia State’s offense seemed much improved in winning three of its previous four games. It reverted to its troubling midseason form on Saturday. The Panthers built a 10-point lead midway through the first half and then scored just seven points in the next nine minutes, 51 seconds to fall behind by nine. That included a stretch of more than five minutes without a point.
The odd thing is the team shot 47.5 percent, close to its marks in its previous two wins, had 19 assists on 28 field goals, 34 points in the paint and 20 points off turnovers. Those are good things.
The issue, as it has been in most games, is the team scored just two fast-break points. The points that it did score it had to really, really work for. It’s actually quite impressive that the team scored 61 points in half-court sets (15 came from free throws).
The defense. All season, coach Ron Hunter has praised his defense. While I haven’t been as convinced it deserves the volume, the statistics show why Hunter is proud. The results weren’t there on Saturday.
The Warhawks shot 59.6 percent and, frankly, it seemed much higher watching it on ESPN3. They scored 40 points in the paint, had 10 second-chance points and hit 21 of 25 free throws.
If the Panthers are going to win the Sun Belt, it will be defense that makes it happen. It can’t afford another performance like Saturday’s. The Warhawks consistently broke the Panthers’ press and had no problems getting the ball into the post.