GSU hoops hopes it has its legs back

In two of its recent losses, Georgia State went through field-goal drought that combined to last almost 23 minutes, more than half of a game.

They were held without a field goal for almost 14 minutes in Saturday’s loss at Drexel. They were held without a field goal for a little more than nine minutes in the loss at Hofstra earlier this month. It’s the negative side of attacking with 3-pointers.

“We are a jump-shooting team,” coach Ron Hunter said. “If we get into our legs, that’s one of the downfalls of not having  … inside play.”

When jump-shooters don’t have their legs, guard Rashaad Richardson said shots don’t always fall. Conditioning, or legs, can be affected by a variety of factors. In Georgia State’s case, the losses to Hofstra and Drexel occurred at the end of tough stretches featuring a lot of games in a few days. Hofstra was the third game in five days; Drexel was the fifth in 10. Travel can also sap energy. Both of those losses came on the road.

“Flying, staying in a hotel and a short walk-through weighs on us,” Richardson said. “We start off well and then we get tired. We come up short on free throws and our jump shots stop falling.”

There’s not much Georgia State (10-12, 5-4 CAA) can do off the court this deep into the season to avoid future droughts. To try to save his player’s strength, Hunter has reduced practices to 37 minutes per session, a decrease from the two hour practices in November and December. Hunter said he thinks the team has physically recovered as it prepares to get on another airplane to take on Colonial Athletic Association leaders Northeastern (13-7, 8-0) on Wednesday.

The team has been led most of the season by the jump-shooting quartet of R.J. Hunter, Manny Atkins, Devonta White and Rashaad Richardson. They combine to average 53.8 of the team’s 68.1 points per game. For the season, Georgia State is hitting 42.6 percent of its shots and averaging 68.1 points per game.

When they don’t have their legs, which was the case against Drexel and Hofstra, the offense has trouble.

“We start off well and then we get tired,” Richardson said. “We come up short on free throws and our jump shots stop falling.”

In the 52-50 loss to Hofstra, which was the third game in five days, the quartet scored 40 points and the team shot 36 percent. The drought started with 11:14 left in the first half and lasted until Atkins hit a jumper with 2:02 left. During that span, the Panthers’ seven-point lead turned into a six-point deficit.

In the 68-57 loss to Drexel, the quartet scored 49 points and the team shot 27.7 percent. The drought started with 8:35 left in the first half and lasted until Richardson hit a 3-pointer with 14:50 left in the game. During the span, the Panthers’ three-point lead turned into a five-point deficit.

Georgia State stayed in both games with free-throw shooting. They hit 12 of 14 free throws against Hofstra. Anticipating the effects of the packed scheduled, Hunter anticipated even before playing Drexel that his team might struggle with its shots. So, he ordered them to attack they basket when possible. They hit 25 of 29 free throws.

Northeastern leads the league largely on the strength of its offense. They lead the CAA in scoring (69.6 points per game) and are mid-table in defense (67.6). In what may be a good sign for the Panthers, the Huskies are one of the worst teams in the league at defending 3-pointers (35.4 percent allowed).

The question is can Georgia State hit the shots? If not, will they be able to attack Northeastern’s experienced guards?

“That’s something that we are starting to learn: you don’t just keep shooting jump shots,” he said. “But you are who you are. Last year, we were a dribble-drive post team. This year, our strengths are jump shots and shooting 3s. But when those don’t go they lead to long droughts.”

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