Georgia State coach Ron Hunter said his team played what was likely its worst game in the past 10 in Saturday’s 61-59 loss to George Mason in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament.
He said the seniors played out of character, and that it wasn’t because of anything the Patriots did.
He said he didn’t want to use the word nervous, but he said it was almost as if the moment was too big for the group.
The team’s six seniors must now wait for an invitation to play in one of the postseason tournaments.
Hunter’s IUPUI team played in the CBI two years ago. They won at Hofstra in the first round and lost at Princeton in the second round.
Until then, they will be left to wonder “what if?”
The Panthers lost to George Mason because they missed 13 free throws, including nine in the second half. It was the story of the season. Of the team’s eight losses to CAA teams this season, seven could be traced to missed free throws. In contrast, Georgia State hammered Hofstra by 35 points in the first round of the CAA tournament by making 20 of 24 free throws.
“It’s been our Achilles’ heel all season,” Hunter said Saturday night.
Some of you good people have asked me if there’s a chance Hunter will leave because of the success he’s had in his first season at Georgia State, or if his contract will re-negotiated.
Hunter tried to alleviate some of those concerns Sunday, saying that he loves coaching at Georgia State and that his son, R.J., is very excited about playing at Georgia State. He said that is of the most importance to him.
“I love coaching here,” he said. “I want to be here.”
He said after the season is done, he and his agent will discuss his contract.
But Hunter doesn’t seem ready for the season over.
If they are invited to play in the NIT, CBI or CIT, he said he will continue to play the seniors, and not give added time to the underclassmen to better prepare them for next season.
“I don’t want to take the moment away from the seniors,” he said.
The team needed to win the CAA tournament to earn the automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. Its RPI of 135 (as of Saturday) may not be high enough to earn an invitation to the NIT, which means it may have to wait on an invitation to the CIT or CBI tournaments.
The CBI is a 16-team tournament that begins on March 13 and ends with a best-of-three series that begins on March 26 and ends on the 28th. Oregon won the tournament last year. Virginia Commonwealth won it in 2010.
The CIT field will be announced on Sunday, March 11. The field, which included 24 teams last year, has a selection committee that includes former Georgia coach Hugh Durham and former Georgia State coach Lefty Driesell, according to its website. First-round games begin March 13 and the championship game is March 28.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu.