Georgia State pounds Appalachian State

Georgia State coach Ron Hunter made sure it was all but impossible for his basketball team to forget what happened last month at Appalachian State, when his team blew a double-digit lead in the second half.

He started reminding them about their shoddy performance minutes after Thursday’s win against South Alabama, continued to pound them about the 74-69 loss in Boone, N.C., all day Friday and reinforced the message by showing them some video evidence Saturday morning, a few hours before the rematch.

The message definitely got through, as Georgia State responded with an 87-43 win over the Mountaineers at the GSU Sports Arena. It was the school’s first win over Appalachian State in four tries.

“There’s nothing subtle about me, so I hit them over the head with it a lot,” Hunter said. “Even in the walk-through, we talked about how poorly we played. They were tired of hearing it. They came fired up defensively.”

Georgia State (19-8, 12-4 Sun Belt) jumped to a 9-2 lead and kept piling on. The Panthers upped the lead to 17-5 before Appalachian State could call a timeout. That didn’t help, and Georgia State took a 49-13 lead into the locker room.

“I was really happy with the way the game started defensively,” Hunter said. “They were really juiced up for the game because we know what happened the last time we played up there. I kept showing the game (video) until they were sick. I think they were sending me the message back that they were better than that.”

Appalachian State shot only 18.5 percent from the floor in the first half and only 29.1 percent for the game. It was the sixth consecutive game in which the opposition has shot less than 30 percent against the Panthers.

“The defense has been unreal for about a month, and now our offense is starting to catch up, which makes us a scary team,” Hunter said. Georgia State forced 18 turnovers, resulting in 35 points.

The Panthers were helped by the return of guard Ryan Harrow, who scored 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting, with four assists. The senior missed the three previous games because of concussion-like symptoms.

“I think we played unbelievably well without him, and Ryan saw that we really cranked up our defense,” Hunter said. “What Ryan wanted to do was be part of that defense also. He didn’t want to come back his first game and, all of a sudden, the defense falls back.”

R.J. Hunter led the Panthers with 22 points, eight assists and four steals. Markus Crider had 14 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Appalachian State (9-17, 6-11) did not have a player score in double figures.

Georgia State center Curtis Washington, who had three blocks, said, “It’s unbelievable how we’ve been playing. Any time you keep teams consistently under 30 percent shooting, it’s hard to win. It meant a lot because the first game didn’t show how good a defense we are. I think we reiterated that today.”

Georgia State plays again Thursday, at Arkansas-Little Rock.