Georgia State hoped to pull off arguably the biggest win in school history on Friday in one of the most hallowed halls in college basketball.
But Duke is Duke and the Panthers are still working on fulfilling coach Ron Hunter’s goal of becoming the best mid-major program.
It added up to a season-opening 74-55 defeat for Georgia State, which gave the Blue Devils a school-record tying 95th consecutive non-conference victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Still, though Hunter said he didn’t want any moral victories, he seemed pleased with his team despite the defeat.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Hunter said. “I’m so excited about this basketball team. I’m bubbling inside.”
The Panthers (0-1) played with fire and only seemed to get rattled by the Cameron Crazies a few times, but they could do nothing to offset Duke’s height and how coach Mike Krzyzewski used that advantage on both ends of the court.
Mason Plumlee, a 6-10 forward, led Duke with 19 points, including an alley-oop dunk over James Vincent with less than 2 minutes in the game. He added 14 rebounds.
“Their pressure didn’t bother us, their size bothered us,” Hunter said.
While Duke’s inside game set up its outside game, the Panthers had trouble getting either going. R.J. Hunter and Devonta White combined to score 33 points, but 21 came in the second half when the Blue Devils’ lead was too great to overcome. White had 19 points, while Hunter finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Duke’s defense was keyed on the duo throughout the game, forcing them to move further and further from the basket to try to get good looks. The Panthers shot 37.3 percent in the game, compared to Duke’s 51.1 percent. With Plumlee inside feeding the shooters outside, or by Duke switching the ball across the court against the Panthers’ various zones, the Devils hit 11 of their 24 3-pointers, compared to Georgia State’s five of 14.
Krzyzewski praised his team’s defense, noting that Georgia State had four assists compared to 16 turnovers.
“I thought we did a good job against them,” Krzyzewski said about his team’s defense against White and Hunter.
Georgia State has never beaten an ACC team, though it did post two wins against Georgia Tech before it joined the conference. Hunter famously led his previous team, IUPUI, to a 96-92 win over Georgia Tech in the 2002-03 season.
The Panthers played well early in the first half, getting to within 17-15 on a James Vincent dunk with 7:48 left in the first half.
The Blue Devils responded with an 8-0 run, capped by a layup by Plumlee, to increase their lead to 24-15 with 4:11 left in the first half. Plumlee started the play by blocking Hunter’s long jumper, raced down the court and got the ball back for a layup.
The Panthers’ calmness on offense disappeared in the final five minutes of the first half and continued into the second half as Duke turned its 32-22 halftime lead into a 43-28 advantage. Hunter said he could see his team was tired at the halftime and then he saw something worse.
“I saw Coach Krzyzewski walk across and he didn’t have a nice look in his eyes … ,” Hunter said.
White was called for a technical foul after the refs said he threw an elbow with 13:39 left. Duke hit the free throws and Seth Curry drained a 3-pointer on the subsequent possession to increase the lead to 52-30 lead and end Georgia State’s hopes of a rally.
The Panthers will play at Brigham Young on Tuesday in the season’s second game, while Duke will travel to Atlanta to take on Kentucky in the Champions Classic. The Panthers’ first home game will be against Monmouth on Nov. 19.
“I wanted to throw my kids into two of the hardest places to play in the country, at Duke and at BYU,” Hunter said. “After we get through with this, there’s not going to be anything my kids can’t fight through.”
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu