Georgia State loses to Northern Illinois in home opener

Georgia State Panthers guard Brenden Tucker (5) attempts a free throw during their game against the Georgia Southern Eagles in a NCAA men’s basketball game at the Georgia State Convocation Center, Thursday, February 2, 2023, in Atlanta. Georgia State won 64-60. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Georgia State Panthers guard Brenden Tucker (5) attempts a free throw during their game against the Georgia Southern Eagles in a NCAA men’s basketball game at the Georgia State Convocation Center, Thursday, February 2, 2023, in Atlanta. Georgia State won 64-60. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

The Georgia State basketball team failed to build on the momentum created from its first win six days ago and lost a 70-64 decision to Northern Illinois in the home opener Friday afternoon at the GSU Convocation Center.

The Panthers (1-2), who have six new regulars and five new starters, stumbled down the stretch against the Huskies in a game they led with less than six minutes to play in the first game of the three-day Capitol Challenge.

“I thought we lost the level of connectivity that it required for us to win this game,” GSU coach Jonas Hayes said. “I’m not going to lose my cool on these guys because this is the process. I thought we lost our edge going after those 50-50 balls we didn’t come up with. I’m accustomed to having our guys making those plays. We’ve got to get back to Georgia State basketball, and I’m confident we’re ready to do so.”

The Panthers took a one-point lead when Jamaine Mann scored on a layup with 5:43 left to take a 55-54 lead. But Northern Illinois scored the next 10 points, and Georgia State was never able to get closer than five points the rest of the way.

The reserves – four of them starters a year ago – produced 39 of the team’s 64 points. Brenden Tucker led with a season-high 16 points, Mann scored nine and Dwon Odom had eight points and a team-high five assists. The only other starter in double-figures was Lucas Taylor, who followed his 27-point performance at Western Michigan with 12 points. Jay’Den Turner led with 12 rebounds.

Northern Illinois (3-1) was led by 6-foot-7 junior Zarique Nutter with 22 points and six rebounds and David Coit, a preseason all-MAC selection who scored 20 points with five assists.

The Panthers committed only six turnovers and grabbed 18 offensive rebounds. But Georgia State was icy from the perimeter, hitting on only 4 of 18 3-point shots. Tucker had two of those. And Northern Illinois blocked 12 shots.

Northern Illinois led 35-34 at halftime thanks to 17 points from Nutter. Georgia State got 10 points from Taylor and nine from Tucker to keep the game close. In the second half the Huskies rode the hot shooting of Coit, who scored 17 of his 20 points, and were able to pull away despite Nutter, 6-11 forward Yanic Konan Niederhauser and 6-9 senior Harvin Ibarguen limited with four personal fouls each.

“(Coit) carved out our defense way more than I’m comfortable with,” Hayes said. “Our communication sucked, our physicality sucked. We had a couple calls that went in our favor, but we lost our aggression, we lost our connectivity, and we’re going to go back to the drawing board and get better.”

Georgia State plays Little Rock at 2 p.m. Sunday in the final game of the Capitol Challenge before starting a three-game road trip.

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