Another dry spell sends Georgia State to third straight loss

With limited offensive weapons on the roster, Georgia State has struggled all season with extended dry spells. The trend continued Thursday and the Panthers lost their third game in a row.

This time it was a 17-1 run midway in the second half that gave Troy the momentum it needed to take a 65-53 win over the Panthers at the GSU Convocation Center.

Troy, which leads the Sun Belt at 8.8 steals per game, had 12 on Thursday. That was part of the 20 turnovers it forced, which led to 16 points. The leader was former Panther Nelson Phillips, who had three steals and has 41 this season.

“I thought we were not as careful with the ball as we typically are,” Georgia State coach Jonas Hayes said. “They typically apply some pressure and I thought we lost our poise during that stretch, which allowed us to not get good shots at the bucket and it cost us dearly.”

Georgia State led 44-38 with 13:14 left following a 7-0 run, only to have Troy use a steal-fed frenzy that put the Trojans ahead 55-45 with 5:26 remaining. Georgia State got within four points on a pair of Ja’Heim Hudson free throws with 2:08 left but saw its hopes vanish when Keiffer Punter made a 3-pointer off a steal with 59 seconds left to restore the eight-point lead.

GSU (8-9, 1-4 Sun Belt) got 21 points from Brenden Tucker, his second 20-plus point effort in the last three games. Tucker scored eight quick points, including a pair of 3-pointers, to open the second half and give the Panthers a short-lived five-point lead. He scored 17 points in the second half.

Hudson added 14 points and five rebounds and was 6-for-12 from the floor. The Panthers shot 35.3% from the floor and just 18.8% (3-for-16) on 3s.

“Our shooting percentage is not great, but I like to evaluate the quality of the shots,” said Hayes. “I don’t think there’s any reason to reinvent the wheel. The shots we’re getting, we have to make. We work too hard not to see different results.”

Troy (12-6, 4-1) was led by Punter with 16 points and two steals, Zay Williams with 12 points and three blocks, and Darius McNeill with 10 points and three steals.

Troy led 30-27 at the half thanks to its success in the paint, from which 24 of their points came. The Trojans were able to find an open man, sometimes unguarded, under the basket on several possessions. Georgia State stayed close thanks its 22-17 dominance on the boards.

“We have issues with depth, but that’s no excuse,” Hayes said. “We’re trying to do some things defensively to create more turnovers without losing our identity as a solid defensive team.”

Georgia State plays again on Saturday at home against Coastal Carolina.