Georgia State defeated VCU, which made it to the Final Four last year, 55-53 on Wednesday in Richmond. It was the Panthers’ 11th consecutive win, extending the school record. GSU is off to the best start in school history and will face George Mason on Saturday in Fairfax, Va.
Before the season, not knowing what was upcoming, this gauntlet of Drexel, VCU and George Mason figured to be an 0-for-3 stretch. The three teams were predicted to finish atop the CAA, while the Panthers were selected 11th.
Now, Georgia State is atop the CAA after defeating the Dragons and Rams, with the Patriots up next. Another win and you just might see the Panthers in the Others Receiving Votes section of the AP Top 25. I say might because the team’s strength of schedule, whether you like it or not, is still fairly low.
But, what a difference a year makes. The Panthers won 12 games all of last year, and were hammered by 17 points in last year’s trip to VCU.
Recapping the win over the Rams:
The Good: Where to start? The Panthers won their first major road test of the season against arguably the CAA’s best test team. The arena was sold out, but the Panthers were ahead most of the game. … VCU hit Georgia State with three consecutive 3-pointers late in the game that turned a comfortable margin into a nail-biter. The only blink came when Devonta White missed two free-throws that would have iced the game. However, after being held scoreless in the first half White scored 14 in the second half. … Jihad Ali continues to be a calming presence and really the team’s only consistent go-to outside shooter. He led the Panthers with 17 points. … GSU’s defense continues to disrupt, limiting the Rams to 27-percent shooting and creating 10 turnovers.
The Bad: For at least the second consecutive game the Panthers were killed on the offensive glass. The Rams had 16 offensive rebounds, a game after Drexel grabbed 13. … Georgia State’s bench scored just two points and really didn’t contribute much in limited minutes. Hunter says he’ll only play eight guys, but I would expect he wants something from them when they do play.
What’s next: How does this change your expectations for the rest of the season? There are still quite a few tough games remaining, including a road game at Drexel on Jan. 25, a return engagement against VCU on Jan. 28 and another home against Old Dominion on Feb. 22.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu