Intensity on defense fails Georgia State

It was a marvelous stretch of defensive basketball for Georgia State. The Panthers got their hands into the passing lanes for deflections, cut off Virginia Commonwealth’s penetration, and closed out on 3-point shooters. It was nice work.

Too bad it lasted only four minutes.

Georgia State rallied from 10 points down in the second half to make it a one-point game with 9:49 to play, 59-58, but then broke down on defense, missed too many shots, and lost to VCU 82-69, in the GSU Sports Arena on Saturday night.

It was the fifth consecutive loss for the Panthers (8-10), who started 2-0 in Colonial Athletic Association play, but have lost five consecutive conference games. Georgia State plays host to UNC-Wilmington at 7 pm. Wednesday.

“We weren’t able to sustain it [defense],” said Georgia State coach Rod Barnes. “They have a lot of depth, and we’ve got guys that are on the floor a little bit longer than they are. They used their depth to their advantage.”

VCU (12-4, 4-3) made 60 percent of its shots. Guard Joey Rodriguez scored 21 points, and Jamie Skeen, a 6-foot-9 transfer from Wake Forest who became eligible this semester, scored 16.

There was good news, at least, for Georgia State.

Trae Goldston, a 6-foot senior guard, scored 19 points to end a three-game slump in which he made only 3 of 19 shots. Goldston, who had been a starter all season, did not start in the game, but Barnes said the results were good enough for Goldston to take back his starting job.

“I didn’t get down. I knew what coach was trying to do. He was trying to get me focused, get me ready,” Goldston said.

Added Barnes, “People are really focused on him ... he started to press a little bit. When guys are pressing, you need to take the pressure off of them. He was a whole lot looser going into the game.”

Goldston made 6 of 12 shots from the floor, including 3 of 6 3-point shots, in 35 minutes. Trey Hampton chipped in 13 points for Georgia State.

Virginia Commonwealth arrived with NBA prospect Larry Sanders, a 6-foot-9 post with arms long enough to give him the purported longest wingspan in college basketball. But it was the Rams’ Rodriquez, almost a foot shorter, who created the crisis on defense for GSU.

Rodriguez would fly up the court and rely on screens in transition that would free him for open shots along the foul-line elbow. He made 8 of 12 shots and had seven assists.

Barnes was ready for VCU’s offense, which is styled like the offense run by Florida’s Billy Donovan, and put in by former Florida assistant and former VCU  coach Anthony Grant. The Rams’ big men would run to the other end on offense, but instead of going all the way to the other end to post, they would stop and set screens.

“It’s unusual,” Barnes said. “It’s a different kind of thing for our guys. You’ve got to be familiar with it.”

Besides Goldston’s reemergence as a threat, Georgia State had other highlights. They committed only nine turnovers against a pressing team and freshman center James Vincent came off the bench to score a season-high 10 points.

“Just win. Wins cure it,” Barnes said about issues facing his team. “We probably played the best teams in our league over the last four or five games. Stay the course, get better every week.”