Georgia State offense struggles again in loss to rival Georgia Southern

Georgia State’s offensive struggles were magnified Saturday on the court of their most bitter rival.

The Panthers endured a scoreless stretch of 13:01 in the first half and wound up losing 58-52 to Georgia Southern on Saturday at Hanner Fieldhouse in Statesboro. GSU has lost two consecutive games and fell to 0-6 on the road.

The first half was miserable for the Panthers. They shot 19% from the field and were outscored 27-4 in the paint and 11-0 off the bench. Georgia State didn’t score its 10th point until the 2:35 mark and trailed 34-16 at the break. Playing its second game without Dwon Odom, who is away from the team for personal reasons, GSU never seemed to find its pace on the floor.

“We’ve got to play smarter basketball,” coach Jonas Hayes said. “We were discombobulated offensively. I thought Collin (Moore) came in a stabilized us a little bit in the second. I believe in this group, but we’ve got to create better habits that will allow us to have success for a period of time.”

The bright spot again was Moore, who earned a start in his second appearance since returning from a thumb injury that caused him to miss the first 18 games. A 6-foot-4 sophomore from North Little Rock, Arkansas, Moore scored a career-high 17 points with three rebounds, two steals and a block. He scored 10 points in his return Thursday.

“That’s what he was doing before he got injured early in the fall,” Hayes said. “He’s just got to keep playing games. He’s in pretty good shape for practice, but as you know practice is totally different.”

Georgia State (9-11, 2-6 Sun Belt) also got 11 points from Evan Johnson, who showed no ill-effects from a shoulder injury he sustained Thursday, and 10 points from Brenden Tucker. But the Panthers shot only 35.1% from the field and were credited with only four assists.

Georgia Southern (12-9, 5-3) got 15 points from Jalen Finch, 13 points and six rebounds from Andre Savrasov and 10 points from Tyren Moore. The win broke a three-game losing streak to Georgia State and caused more than a few fans to break out their “Southern Not State” banners.

After Georgia State went ahead 4-2, Georgia Southern scored 19 consecutive points before Tucker made a free throw to end the lengthy run. Southern led by as many as 24 points in the second half until Georgia State was enlivened by a 10-0 run. The Panthers trimmed the margin to double-digits with two minutes left, but missed a couple of 3-pointers that would have made Southern uncomfortable.

“You just have to relax,” Hayes said. “We just have to stay committed to one another, maybe not get your personal best shot, but the team’s best shot. We’re still learning.”

The absence of Odom, the team’s leading scorer at 14.6 points to go with 4.9 assists, has made a definite impact on the team in more areas than the stat sheet.

“It places people who are already in a new position into another role, another position,” Hayes said. “So you’re having to learn secondary roles. It’s just another bit of adversity we have to work ourselves through.”

Georgia State will compete its four-game road stretch this week with games at Appalachian State on Thursday and at Marshall on Saturday.