5 observations from Georgia State victory

Here are five observations from Georgia State’s 73-54 win over Middle Georgia State to open the regular season Friday at the GSU Sports Arena.

Old faces. Coach Ron Hunter said before the season that Kevin Ware was going to look like a different player than last season, and that was true Friday. He scored 12 of the Panthers' first 21 points, mostly on drives to the baskets and three-point plays. He finished with 14 points and six rebounds.

Forward Markus Crider had a more difficult time. He missed his first four free throws and had his shot blocked twice on the same possession against a very aggressive defense. He fouled out with 7:28 remaining after scoring four points and grabbing six rebounds. Crider had offseason surgery on his ankle, which Hunter said is affecting his confidence and explosiveness.

“He’s not the same player right now because of the surgery,” Hunter said.

Guard Isaiah Dennis, described by Hunter as the driver of the team, was quietly effective. He finished with eight points and five assistss. He didn’t start the second half, as he did the first, because Hunter wanted to get Isaiah Williams on the court. He is considered a better outside shooter and at the time Georgia State’s offense was in a slump.

Forward Jalen Brown made two 3-pointers from the corner, offsetting Jeff Thomas’ cold night.

New faces. Jeremy Hollowell, Thomas and Williams, each of whom redshirted last season, can score, but are rusty. Hollowell showed off an outside-inside game early, finishing with 12 points and five rebounds. Thomas had good form but couldn't find his range, missing eight of his nine 3-point shots. Williams made two of his first five 3-pointers and finished with 10 points.

Hunter said he’s not worried about Thomas’ shooting because he hasn’t gotten to play competitive basketball in 18 months. Hunter said he might be more worried if Thomas was making shots. He also noted that Thomas didn’t take any bad shots, he just wasn’t making them.

Freshman Malik Benlevi showed a nice ability to make 3-pointers and drive to the basket. He finished with five points and looked comfortable on offense and defense.

Defense. The team's various defenses are still a work in progress as new players are incorporated. Middle Georgia State got to the rim very easily and were able to camp out on either side of the basket for rebounds. However, the zones were very effective against Middle Georgia State's 3-point attempts, limiting the Knights to 1-of-16 shooting. The Panthers were outrebounded in the game, 42-37.

Shooting. Georgia State's offense dried up for more than six minutes near the end of the first half as the jumpers stopped falling. Middle Georgia State cut Georgia State's lead from 31-13 to 33-23 during that spell.

It happened because Hunter said Middle Georgia State switched from a man defense, which the Panthers were exploiting, to a zone defense, which caused the offense to go stagnant.

“We weren’t driving the ball and moving the ball,” he said. “It’s part of growing up.”

Georgia State kept pumping up 3-pointers to open the second half and missed their first three, followed by a Ware miss before T.J. Shipes made a short jumper, which calmed the team. The Panthers began to mix more drives to the basket with the 3-pointers, and the offense started to pick up steam midway through the second half. That began to open the 3-point shots again. Benlevi took advantage with a 3-pointer to push the Panthers’ lead to 57-38.

Georgia State shot 42 percent for the game.

Hunter said he thought the team’s poor shooting began to affect the defense in the first half, bu the team did snap out of it.

“We let our shooting affect everything else,” he said. “We started thinking too much and stopped playing.”

Free-throw shooting. Georgia State missed three of its first four free throws, and it got only marginally better. They made 10 of 17.

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