R.J. Hunter and Jerrelle Benimon cancelled each other out in what could have been a showcase game between two of the CAA’s best players when Georgia State hosted Towson on Saturday at the Sports Arena.
Instead, the rest of Towson’s team outplayed Georgia State’s to hand the Panthers a 90-82 overtime defeat. Manny Atkins tied a career-high with 26 points and Devonta White set a season high with 22 more. It was Georgia State’s (12-14, 7-6) second consecutive loss and snapped its three-game winning streak at home.
The Panthers were undone by their inability to get almost anything from the bench, which was outscored by Towson’s 26-5. They also had a difficult time stopping Towson’s 3-point shooters. The Tigers, one of the conference’s worst 3-point shooting teams (29.6 percent), hit 13 of their 21 attempts. Lastly, the Panthers didn’t have the depth to keep up the experienced and physical Tigers (14-12, 9-4). That was evident when Rashaad Richardson, a starter and the team’s best defender, fouled out with 13:06 left.
“It’s been that kind of year,” Georgia State coach Ron Hunter said. “We haven’t gotten the breaks. They are last in the league in 3-pointers and kids that don’t even make 3s make 3s.”
Neither Hunter nor Benimon provided their teams as much help as usual.
Hunter, the leading scorer in conference play (20.1 points per game), finished with 15 points but missed 13 of his 16 attempts, including eight of his nine 3-point attempts.
Ron Hunter said he thinks Hunter and the rest of the team’s freshmen have hit the “wall” that some first-year players hit as they make the transition from high school to the longer and tougher college season.
“He hasn’t got the lift right now in his jump shot,” Ron Hunter said. “Teams are being physical and chasing him.”
Benimon, averaging 17.2 points and 11.5 rebounds, finished with seven and eight. Perhaps no points were bigger than his three-point play that gave the Tigers a six-point lead with 46 seconds remaining in overtime. James Vincent missed a layup on the preceding play that could have cut Towson’s lead to one.
“That kind of took the air out of us,” Hunter said. “It wasn’t (Vincent’s fault), but it’s little plays like that.”
In overtime, Georgia State had chances but couldn’t get closer than three after the Tigers opened the period with five consecutive points, including a fade-away 3-pointer by Mike Burwell, a 30.2 percent long-range shooter, with 2:35 left.
That Georgia State forced overtime is a testament to what Ron Hunter described as their “keep fighting and keep fighting and keep fighting” attitude.
Trailing by five in regulation, R.J. Hunter missed a forced jumper but the rebound came to Atkins, who hit the 3-pointer to cut the Panthers’ gap to two with 53.9 seconds left.
Trailing by one with 6.7 seconds left, the Panthers fouled Burwell, who hit one of his two free throws. Vincent grabbed the rebound and fed White, who was fouled with less than a second remaining and the Panthers trailing by two.
White, a 76.9-percent free-throw shooter, hit both to tie the game at 77.
“I didn’t think we played our type of basketball,” Hunter said. “I thought we fought. We got to overtime. We said if we can keep it close we’ll give ourselves a chance. That’s why you can’t be mad at them.”
A week after a pair of unimpressive losses, Georgia Tech regained a bit of its footing. The Yellow Jackets delivered an emphatic 87-57 thrashing of East Tennessee State on Saturday afternoon at McCamish Pavilion to head into their final exam week on an up note.