Five thoughts from Georgia State’s win over South Alabama

Devin Mitchell’s 3-pointer with 11 seconds left completed an eight-point rally and lifted Georgia State to a 78-77 win over South Alabama on Saturday at GSU Sports Arena.

Georgia State closed the game with an 8-0 run in the final 1:13 to snap its two-game losing streak.

It started with three free throws by Mitchell with 1:13 left.

“Those were huge, absolutely huge,” coach Ron Hunter said. “He saw it go in so that shot in the corner was easier.”

The run continued with two free throws by Malik Benlevi, and ended with the 3 by Mitchell. Without a point guard on the final possession because they are all injured, Hunter wanted his shooters spaced around the perimeter because he wanted a 3-pointer for the win. He didn’t want the game go to overtime. Jordan Session ran a ball screen, and Justin Seymour hit Mitchell in the corner.

“I knew it was going in as soon as it left,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been working on that corner 3 all week.”

South Alabama missed a 3-pointer on its final possession.

The Panthers won despite playing without freshman guard D’Marcus Simonds (knee) for the third consecutive game, and without leading scorer Jeremy Hollowell and Willie Clayton, who fouled out. in the final minutes.

Benlevi led Georgia State (8-6, 1-1 Sun Belt) with a career-high 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Hollowell and Jeff Thomas added 15.

Here are five observations about the game:

Free throws and turnovers. Hunter said the Panthers won the game because of their free-throw shooting in the second half. After making 2 of 9 in the first half, Georgia State made 15 of 17 in the second. South Alabama made 3 of 3 in the first half, but only 9 of 18 in the second.

Georgia State committed 16 turnovers, but only two in the final 3:16. South Alabama committed 18 turnovers, including two in the final 1:11.

“It kind of reminded me a little bit of the press in the Baylor game,” Hunter said of the Panthers’ famous win in the 2015 NCAA tournament. “We said in the timeout, ‘keep fighting, let’s see what happens.’”

Injuries. Georgia State may be forced to play Troy on Monday without Simonds, who Hunter said may return next weekend; Austin Donaldson, who suffered a neck injury near the end of Saturday's game; and Isaiah Williams, who suffered an shoulder injury a few days ago, but managed to play four minutes Saturday.

“We have to keep fighting until we can get healthy,” Hunter said.

Lots of 3-pointers. A decent 3-point shooting team (36 percent), the Panthers let fly against the Jaguars with 27 attempts, seven made.

In the first half, Georgia State took 30 shots, 17 of which were 3-pointers. They made five (29.4 percent).

South Alabama, a poor 3-point shooting team (28.6 percent), made 11 of 23, including 6 of 13 in the first half.

The Panthers kept firing in the second half, putting up two more in the first 90 seconds of the second half, making neither.

“I don’t think any of them, except for two, were bad shots,” Hunter said. “We were so poor in the first half with our frees, we’d better make some 3s.”

Jeff Thomas gets hot. When Thomas signed with Georgia State, some players said he had a better jump shot than R.J. Hunter, who is the school's all-time leading scorer. While Thomas' stroke is solid, it hasn't resulted in anything close to what Hunter did. He averaged 6.1 points on 37-percent shooting as a freshman last season, and is averaging 6.5 points per game this season.

He came off the bench and made two 3-pointers Saturday, but he was locked on with his mid-range jumper. He made 6 of 13, 2 of 8 3-pointers.

“I thought out bench was terrific,” Hunter said.

Seymour finished with seven points, Donaldson and Mitchell six each and Clayton five points and seven rebounds.

Jeremy Hollowell is not hot. The senior and the team's leading scorer (14.8) continued to struggle with his shooting, making 5 of 14, including 1 of 7 3-pointers, before fouling out with 6:35 left.

It was the fifth consecutive game in which he didn’t make at least 50 percent of his shots. During the four previous games, he was shooting 38 percent, decreasing his season average to 41.

The atmosphere. Because of the winter storm, it didn't feel like a home game. The ticket office was closed, making the event free. Still, a few hundred showed up. There were no cheerleaders, dancers, band, between-breaks entertainment, or even a halftime performer, so the atmosphere was more neutral than encouraging. ESPN3 didn't televise it as planned.

Hunter said it felt more like a scrimmage at times.

“It was a strange environment, but when it comes to March no one is going to care,” Hunter said.