Back issue sidelines coach Jonas Hayes in GSU’s loss at Louisiana

Georgia State is coming back from its road trip to Louisiana with two losses and an ailing head basketball coach.

The Panthers dropped their second straight game on Saturday, falling 78-70 to Louisiana in Lafayette, a game that coach Jonas Hayes watched from the locker room in the second half because of a painful lower back issue.

Assistant coach Danny Peters, who was on the staff with Hayes at Xavier, served as acting head coach in the second half.

“More than anything he just feels down that he wasn’t out there to be with our guys, especially with the battle they had in the second half,” Peters said. “I don’t want to speak to his medical condition, but he’s managing it. It just happened at a tough time. We’re going back to the hotel and get some treatment.”

The physical nature of the game took its toll on the Georgia State players, too. Jamaine Mann, Brenden Tucker and Dwon Odom each had instances where they sustained injured ankles or legs, but either remained in the game or returned after a brief trip to the bench.

Georgia State (8-8, 1-3 Sun Belt) had four players score in double figures – Odom with 18 points, four rebounds and two steals, Ja’Heim Hudson with 14 points and three blocks, Mann with 13 points and four rebounds and Tucker with 12 points. Edward Nnamoko led the team with six rebounds.

Hudson, a holdover from last year’s Sun Belt championship team, is not disheartened by the poor start in conference play. A year ago, the Panthers started the season 0-4 in the league and wound up going to the NCAA Tournament.

“It was tough,” Hudson said. “But we know we’re close. We went through the same thing last year. We’re going to get back in the gym, get back in the lab and we’re going to get it right.”

Louisiana (12-4, 2-2) was led by Jordan Brown, the preseason Sun Belt player of the year, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out. Jalen Dalcourt and Greg Williams Jr. each scored 11.

GSU led 12-10 after Hudson made a pair of free throws at 13:03. That’s when the Panthers began an offensive drought that has hindered them in the four conference games. This time the scoring slump came later in the first half and the Panthers did not score in the final 4:28. Louisiana finished with a 9-0 run and led 41-26 at halftime.

Georgia State answered in the second half and quickly got the deficit back into single digits. The Panthers got within five points after Mann made two free throws to make it 50-45, but could never get closer. They had it down to six points as late as 2:58 but didn’t make another basket until 58 seconds remained.

“The second half we stayed with our game plan,” Peters said. “When I talked to the guys at halftime, we talked about being able to deliver the first punch. They’re going to swing and we’re going to swing. And we talked about how you don’t try it all at once. You’ve got to chip away at the lead.”

Georgia State returns home for two games. The Panthers host Troy on Thursday and Coastal Carolina on Saturday.

Georgia State had won the last four meetings against Louisiana, including the Sun Belt Conference championship game a year ago. GSU leads the series 17-8.