Georgia State basketball must quickly recover

Fresh off its worst loss since coach Ron Hunter took over as Georgia State’s men’s basketball coach, the Panthers must quickly regroup against the school’s biggest rival when it hosts Georgia Southern on Tuesday.

Georgia State (11-4, 4-2 Sun Belt) was demolished by Louisiana-Lafayette 87-54 on Saturday. Powered by center Shawn Long, the Cajuns hit 11 3-pointers, outrebounded the Panthers by 17 and held them without a field goal for almost eight minutes in the second half.

Of the many, many things that need improvement before the Eagles arrive, Hunter said his team must dictate the game’s pace.

Hunter said there were too many possessions on Saturday during which the Panthers didn’t use the entirety of the shot clock. He called it “one pass, one shot,” a problem the team has experienced in its other three losses this year.

“Every time we get away from it in the future we will lose,” he said.

Part of the impatience on Saturday can be traced to Louisiana-Lafayette’s pressing defense. By the time Georgia State got into its offense, there were usually just 20 seconds remaining on the shot clock. Louisiana-Lafayette stretched out its zone or man-to-man defenses to challenge most passes and every shot, creating a hurried pace that the Panthers couldn’t shake.

Hunter talked on Friday about the need for his team to make Long play defense, but his players rarely attacked him. He finished with just one foul, the only blemish on his stat line that included 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting and 18 rebounds, including eight on offense.

There are two pieces of good news for Georgia State.

The first is the other teams near the top of the Sun Belt’s standings also lost on Saturday, so the Panthers didn’t lose any ground to Arkansas State (8-8, 4-1), which was beaten at Appalachian State and Texas-Arlington (13-3, 4-1), which was beaten in overtime at South Alabama. Arkansas-Little Rock (15-1, 5-0) didn’t play.

The other spot of good fortune is Georgia Southern (6-10, 2-4) doesn’t have a player near the caliber of Long. Freshman Tookie Brown, a 5-foot-11 guard, is the Eagles’ leading scorer at 17 points per game.

Georgia Southern’s roster was rebuilt after last season, which featured a loss to Georgia State in the Sun Belt tournament title game.

After the game against the Eagles, the Panthers will travel to Appalachian state on Thursday before taking a week off.

“We know the pace we have to play at, we just have to get it done,” Hunter said.