Justin Roberts scored a career-high 23 points Saturday, but it may have been his defense that made the biggest difference in Georgia State’s lopsided 84-62 win over Louisiana-Monroe.
Roberts was the man in Georgia State’s fierce man-to-man defense who was responsible for the Warhawks’ Michael Ertel, his team’s leading scorer. Roberts stuck annoying close to Ertel for three-quarters of the game, denying him the ball and preventing any easy shots. The frustrated Ertel -- who scored 39 last week against South Alabama -- had to expend maximum effort to scratch out his 10 points, only six of those while closely guarded by Roberts.
Roberts, a 5-foot-11 sophomore transfer from DePaul, shot the lights out, too. He made 8 of 10 from the floor, seven of them 3-pointers, and added three rebounds and two assists. His previous career scoring best was 22 against the College of Charleston and Middle Georgia, both this season.
“He didn’t really have a role as a freshman when he was at DePaul, and he sat out last year and gets thrust into a role he’s never had at this level,” Georgia State coach Rob Lanier said. “Now you’re starting to see his true talent emerge. But he’s also our best on-ball defender.”
The victory was the 14th consecutive for the Panthers at the GSU Sports Arena and marked back-to-back blowouts. Georgia State spanked Louisiana-Lafayette by 38 on Thursday.
Georgia State (12-6, 5-2 Sun Belt) also got 18 points and five rebounds from Corey Allen and 11 points each from Damon Wilson and Nelson Phillips. The Panthers shot 57.7 percent as a team and had 18 assists on 30 made field goals.
Louisiana-Monroe (6-10, 2-5) was led by Tyree White with 16 points and seven rebounds and J.D. Williams with 14 points.
“We’re not a great defensive team yet, but when your team gets to the point where they’re really bought into wanting to be good on defense, there’s a certain level of selflessness that’s associated with that,” Lanier said. “You’re saying, ‘I’m putting the team first.’ And once you enter into that space, that selflessness winds up carrying over into your offense.”
Georgia State used an 8-0 run for a quick 8-3 lead. But unlike Thursday’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette, the visitors got off the deck and tied the score at 14-14 with 11:44 left in the half.
That jolted Georgia State out of the offensive doldrums. The Panthers scored seven straight and outscored Louisiana-Monroe 20-9 to take an 11-point lead with 4:52 left. Georgia State led 37-32 at halftime.
The Panthers started hot in the second half and made four consecutive field goals – the final a trey from Roberts -- to complete a 13-2 run and take a 50-36 lead for their biggest lead of the game with 16:01 remaining. The Panthers eventually led by as many as 27.
“We’re sharing the ball; we’re playing the right way,” Lanier said.
Georgia State plays its next three on the road at South Alabama, Troy and rival Georgia Southern.
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