Hunter’s pledge gets its first real test

This will appear in tomorrow’s paper, but thought I’d post it now:

Georgia State coach Ron Hunter promises his team will become relevant in the CAA.

Even after winning 10 consecutive games there are still plenty of questions because the Panthers have beaten just one team, Drexel, which has a winning record.

Those answers should come as early as Wednesday, when Georgia State plays at VCU, riding an eight-game winning streak, with more coming Saturday when it visits George Mason.

It’s a gauntlet that could establish the Panthers, predicted to finish 11th in the preseason, as the team to beat in the conference. Georgia State already passed the first test by beating the Dragons, who were picked in the preseason to win the conference, at the Sports Arena 58-44. Now they must face the Rams, who were picked third, and the Patriots, who were picked second.

“[Playing for] first place on the road in the CAA, that’s going to happen a lot for us,” said Hunter, whose team is 3-3 on the road this year including neutral-court games.

It can be easy to dismiss Hunter’s confidence as the product of a coach at a new school who is caught up in the emotions of a school-record win streak built against teams that are a combined 44-93.

Add to that the Panthers have yet to have a winning conference record since joining the CAA in 2005-06 and even Hunter has acknowledged that some of his players seem like they are waiting on the bubble to burst. So when he says “we are going to play meaningful CAA games,” it sometimes sounds like he’s still trying to convince his players as much as he is everyone else.

“I didn’t inherit a bad basketball team, I inherited a team that didn’t know how to win,” Hunter said. “Now, these kids have a swagger. They understand that they can win and that they want to win.”

But instead of focusing on the big-picture impact this trip could have, Hunter is telling his squad to worry just about VCU (11-3, 2-0), a Final Four participant last year and an example of what Hunter thinks is possible for his program.

“We don’t worry about what’s in back of us or in front of us,” he said. “All we care about is VCU.”

Led by senior Eric Buckner, whose shotblocking ability (2.92 per game) is the hub around which the Panthers’ matchup zones and presses work, Georgia State’s players said they are following their coach’s guidance. They don’t even seem to be thinking much about VCU, either. After the win against Drexel, they said they are focusing on three things: defending, rebounding and running.

Georgia State is limiting opponents to 57.8 points per game on 38.4-percent shooting. They have created 61 more turnovers than they’ve made. The Dragons, who averaged 12 per game, committed 25 in Monday’s loss. During the win streak, opponents are shooting just 34.2 percent. The Panthers have forced 53 more turnovers.

VCU coach Shaka Smart said the Panthers will “definitely put some heat on you. He’s got those guys playing with terrific energy, the way they defend, they way they press, the way they get up the floor. He’s got those guys playing as well as anyone in the league.”

Smart also traces the Panthers’ success to Hunter’s previous success at IUPUI and that the team features six seniors. He said those who did preseason predictions seemingly forgot that experience can quickly turn into success.

“That’s one of those things that you shouldn’t overthink,” he said. “If you have five good seniors, you will have a chance to win some games.”

Reflecting Hunter’s wish, Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said the Panthers are already contenders in the CAA.

“They get on streaks like this, where they haven’t had this success, and they feel good about themselves,” he said. “Ron has them enthused and playing hard. They are going to be a tough out.”

– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu

59 comments Add your comment

Sluggo

January 3rd, 2012
12:35 pm

Way to go Panthers! Display that tremendous defense and shut down VCU!

Doug Roberson

January 3rd, 2012
12:39 pm

Way to go Sluggo, first on the board.

Georgia Southern Eagle

January 3rd, 2012
12:40 pm

Go GSU , get a win over VCU!

zgoldatl

January 3rd, 2012
1:13 pm

Let’s ride this streak as long as possible. Go Panthers.
Bleed Blue

Blue Meanie

January 3rd, 2012
1:14 pm

Prediction: GSU 71 VCU 65

AJC’s response: Despite winning 11 straight games, only two have come against team’s with winning records, including overrated VCU who had a fluke run to the Final Four last season.

Panthersville.com

January 3rd, 2012
1:16 pm

Time to raise the stakes! Beat VCU! (Just like last year.)

Doug Roberson

January 3rd, 2012
1:21 pm

No one can predict the strength of a schedule before the season. So, while the win streak is impressive, the fact that it has come against quite a few teams that aren’t good is a legitimate point to raise.

Sluggo

January 3rd, 2012
1:26 pm

Thanks for the coverage Doug.

This will be a gut check kind of game. I think this team is poised for an upset provided we shoot the ball better. Got to be able to hit shots on the road.

Blue Meanie

January 3rd, 2012
1:28 pm

Just having some fun Doug, what would the AJC comment section be without irrational comments?

Thanks for the coverage, #beatVCU

GSUBB

January 3rd, 2012
1:31 pm

Biggest game I can remember in years. Biggest non-tourney CAA game since we joined the league.

They have already sold out their arena for the game, 7500 rowdy fans will be waiting. This is big boy basketball. I am looking for another low scoring game.

We proved we can beat a top CAA team at home, now we have 2 chances to prove it on the road.

BariBlue

January 3rd, 2012
2:14 pm

I know that this team can beat VCU, they just have to focus and play their hearts out. This game means so much because we haven’t been relevant in the past decade. Panthers, it’s time to change perceptions of this program and school. Don’t give those 7500 fans a reason to cheer. TAME THOSE RAMS!!!!!!!!

GSU '80

January 3rd, 2012
2:24 pm

As an “80 gradiate, never had too much to follow. The game at the Omni in (87?) was fun, but playing the # 1 seed (Arkansas ), even though leading at half-time, was just not going to end up with a win.

GO GSU…………………..it would be nice to have something to root for………………..and not just the funny rampway halls.

Bleeding_Blue

January 3rd, 2012
2:58 pm

Great Win last night v Drexel, but can’t stop now. VCU is going to be the toughest game we play this season. Just have to stay focus an take it one game at a time. If we want respect, we’re gonna have to take it. Go Panthers!

GSUGrad06

January 3rd, 2012
3:05 pm

SOS aside, we are winning games that we wouldn’t have won last season. I’m trying to find the scripture that says Georgia State University is not allowed to be perceived as good in any athletics and I just cannot come up with it. Face it, we might just have a good team on our hands as much as some might hate to admit it.

Don’t haters have a Falcons team they need to be negative about this week?

Doug Roberson

January 3rd, 2012
3:26 pm

06: you might have a good team. The fact that are you aren’t just winning, but winning most games by double-digits, is a good sign.

hammer22

January 3rd, 2012
3:33 pm

Win or loss tomorrow, I’m still proud of my Panthers.

TEXAS

January 3rd, 2012
4:08 pm

WHEN WILL THEY RETIRE TERRENCE BRANDON’S JERSEY AT GSU? HE WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST PLAYERS TO PLAY THERE EVER, LOOK AT THE STATS!!!!!!!! WHAT ARE U GUYS WAITING ON? HE HAS ALL THE CREDITIALS(I.E. DEGREE). COME ON GSU NATION!

GSU

January 3rd, 2012
4:15 pm

My favorite kind of cupcakes:

1. Chocolate
2. Vanilla
3. GSU’s basketball schedule

GSUUSSOCCER

January 3rd, 2012
5:04 pm

Great job last night by Ron Hunter & Panthers!

I hope they have better shooting vs. VCU because if they shoot like they did last night, then I don’t think the outcome will favor GSU.

Great job Panthers, on to VCU!

itsmeagain

January 3rd, 2012
5:12 pm

This is probably the first game since the first three this season that i’ve felt like we truly are the underdogs. Sure we weren’t expected to win the others, but after watching us blow out our first few opponents we got the feeling that we probably were better than a lot of the other teams. Yesterdays win was big; it means that we can compete with the bigger teams. A win tomorrow, well, that says that the sky is the limit. I’m not worried if we lose, VCU is a national contender. So long as we can keep up, that’s enough to prove where we are.

GSPanther

January 3rd, 2012
5:13 pm

Just beat the preseason number 1 in the conference by 14….

If that wasn’t a measuring stick game for state then I guess VCU and GMU will be….

I’m not sure if we are ready to win these on the road yet, this team still has some growing up to do. I do think we can beat both at home though and will be amped for those games.

WE NEED MORE FANS COMING TO THE GAME. Lets go State!

460 JC Camp Student Center

January 3rd, 2012
5:15 pm

Good to see GSU getting some print. The Panthers beat the pants off of Georgia Southern and didn’t get a mention in the printed paper. Beat the snot out of Drexel and not a word on news print (burried in the website).

You know, a 10-game win streak is nothing to sneeze at, AJC editors. Time to wake up from your UGa football bender.

GO PANTHERS!!

January 3rd, 2012
5:24 pm

Congrats on the great win last night, ugly game but a win as a win. Hopefully we can get our shooters going and DON’T forget about Richardson, he is a baller, awesome on defense and can light it up. Mcgee can take over as well. Would love to see both Vincent and Buckner in at the same time and see how they handle that!!
GO PANTHERS!!

[...] come close to achieving a winning season since joining the Colonial Athletic Association in 2005 has now reeled off 10 consecutive victories entering a Wednesday night’s measuring stick game at surging [...]

Doug Roberson

January 3rd, 2012
6:16 pm

Both the Drexel story and the Georgia Southern game stories were in the paper. I’m not sure why you didn’t get a copy that included those results, unless you received an early paper.

Doug Roberson

January 3rd, 2012
6:17 pm

I’m partial to German Chocolate cupcakes.

Anderson

January 3rd, 2012
6:31 pm

I’m a proud 2nd Generation GSU alumni.

What I love about Ron Hunter is that he thinks BIG. Most GSU fans/grads would have been satisfied with just a winning season this year. But it is now possible that the GSU men’s BB team could win 20 games this year and *gasp* win the CAA league championship. Like Ron Hunter has said,where is the rule that says this team cannot and should not win this year.

Oh,btw,this could only be the beginning of great things under Ron Hunter. The recruiting class that is coming in the fall of 2012 is very impressive.

GSU Men's BB Fan

January 3rd, 2012
6:46 pm

TEXAS,

I’m curious as to why Brandon’s number isn’t retired either: http://www.georgiastatesports.com/PhotoAlbum.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=12700&PALBID=76222

GSUUSSOCCER

January 3rd, 2012
6:50 pm

@TEXAS

Not sure why either, but I doubt there is much that we can do about that. Have you emailed any of the GSU athletics administration? I think they would be able to help you more than any of us could.

slimseville

January 3rd, 2012
8:42 pm

Very proud of my GSU Panthers!! Keep up the good work fellas!

@ Doug: I prefer Cinna Swirl cupcakes from CamiCakes. If you haven’t been there I definitely recommend the place.
@TEXAS: His number should definitely be retired.

[...] Update: Our friend Doug from the AJC, give us his preview of tomorrow night’s VCU game. [...]

GSUBB

January 3rd, 2012
10:00 pm

Agreed on Brandon’s number being retired.

panther

January 4th, 2012
12:19 am

Enter your comments here

panther

January 4th, 2012
12:24 am

Hunter has got these boys believing they can beat anyone in the conference. I would not be surprised a bit if we get a win at VCU. It is going to be a very tough game, however this team has the talent and confidence to get a W. Go Panthers!

Really?

January 4th, 2012
8:48 am

I didn’t see the Drexel score or win on line… it kept saying GSU wins 9th not 10th. What’s up with that Doug? or was it buried so deep in the website that only the person the put it there could find it???

GSU

January 4th, 2012
8:57 am

I’d much rather have a Ga State basketball schedule cupcake than having to swallow the pill that was Georgia State football.

STATEment

January 4th, 2012
9:14 am

Sloppy defensive battle vs. Drexel. I expect the VCU game to be a run and gun affair. I am already pumped/nervous for this one. Is CSS or someone picking up the game? Going to be an extremely tough road test! We can’t get sloppy as we did at times vs. Drexel. Keep on rolling State!

alum

January 4th, 2012
9:15 am

Fire Bond &Thompson!!!!

STATEment

January 4th, 2012
9:18 am

How in the world was there only 900 people at the Drexel game? I know it’s winter break and students aren’t on campus, but seriously! Support these guys and come out on the 11th v. UNCW! Especially if they somehow find a way to win on the road vs. VCU and GMU, we should have to cut a hole in the top of the sports arena to fit folks in.

GSUBB

January 4th, 2012
9:34 am

STATEment, it will on online at ESPN3.com. VCU has a deal with ESPN to simulcast all of their in house production.

I agree on attendance, it is shameful. I think it will pick up as we get deeper into conference play.

Ryder

January 4th, 2012
9:55 am

As a VCU alum I can definitely state that I see good things for the GSU program going forward. It’s not an easy task but to see where my beloved Rams have come from since joining the CAA in ‘96 it’s not inconceivable that GSU can make that leap.

That being said, I hope the Panthers come up short against the Rams ;)

PiAlpha92

January 4th, 2012
10:00 am

http://kenpom.com/

GSU 63
GT 125
George Mason 95, Hi Hewitt Haters
Georgia 119
Mercer 94

Go Panthers!!!!!

GSU_MEX_ALUM

January 4th, 2012
11:24 am

It was definitely an ugly win and I hope that was a warm up game for the real test ahead. I was impressed by their FT shooting and our D.

I agree that we need to shoot way better to beat VCU and GMason!

Go Panthers! Let’s get more fans in the stands!

English

January 4th, 2012
1:48 pm

Doug, how excited are you about this game?

I’m pumped but that could be the coffee surging through my veins.

Go State!

panther

January 4th, 2012
2:36 pm

Is the Geoge Mason game on TV this Saturday ?

AtlantaRam

January 4th, 2012
3:23 pm

Genuinely glad for GSU.
It’s good for the CAA.
It’s a great story, but VCU will handle it’s business.
When it’s all said and done it won’t even be close.

STATEment

January 4th, 2012
4:17 pm

Rhode Island who GSU beat by by 32 pts beat Boston College the other night. Even though they haven’t won many games they seem solid.

Doug Roberson

January 4th, 2012
6:58 pm

I’m looking forward to following it tonight. Should be a good game.

Doug Roberson

January 4th, 2012
7:00 pm

It was on page 2, and on the front page of ajc.com/sports

tron

January 4th, 2012
7:34 pm

hey doug, you’re posts are from 6:58 and 7:00 pm, 30 minutes in the future…

Are you Biff?