Georgia State drops Georgia Southern, 85-65

For 25 minutes here Tuesday night, Georgia State’s Trae Goldston would not give the nets a break. He pulled up for the jumper in transition, buried the three-pointer from the corner, or faked and stepped his way through the Georgia Southern defense for easy shots.

Goldston was on his way to a career-high 28 points, which was a good thing. Because while he was carrying his team on offense, the Panthers lost their identity as a defensive-minded team and did not guard with conviction for those 25 minutes.

When Goldston finally cooled off, Georgia State had finally decided to contest some shots and the Panthers (7-6) rolled away to a 85-65 victory in the GSU Sports Arena over the Eagles (3-10).

“Trae started off and got us going so we could match their scoring, but I kept telling our guys we are going to win this game on defense,” said Rod Barnes, the Georgia State coach.

It was a season high in points for Georgia State. The Panthers shot 62.2 percent from the field, the best shooting performance in three seasons under Barnes.

Goldston, a 6-foot senior who played two seasons at Redan High School, made 11 of 16 field goal attempts, including 6 of 11 from the three-point line. The left-hander had been averaging 11.6 points per game. He has 50 points in his last two games.

Goldston said he has been working on finding comfort zones on the floor for his easy jumper. He did not rush his offense against Georgia Southern. He just waited for 6-5 point guard Marques Johnson (seven assists) to find him over the defense and swing the ball his way.

“The beginning of the year, I haven’t been shooting the ball as well I’ve wanted to and coach has just told me to let it come to me,” Goldston said. “It’s going to come and I am going to get opportunities during the game.”

Georgia State led 42-36 at the half behind Goldston’s 17 points (7 of 9 shooting from the field). The Panthers, however, had trouble finding Georgia Southern’s Antonio Hanson, who made 5 of 6 three-pointers to keep the Eagles in contention.

Georgia State came into the game leading Division I in three-point field goal defensive percentage (23 percent), but the Panthers lost Hanson on screens or could not close out on him fast enough.

Finally, when the Panthers did catch up to Hanson (1 of 6 in the second half), they were able to pull away. Georgia Southern, which hit 50 percent of its shots in the first half, made just 35 percent in the second half.

“We’ve worked extremely hard on offense -- our main focus has basically been defense -- and I knew sometime during the season, our guys would start shooting the ball well,” Barnes said. “It helps us go home on a good note and get prepared for conference play.”