Devonta White and James Vincent haven’t had the best starts to the season for Georgia State.
But Vincent tied a school record with nine blocks and White scored a game-high 16 points to lead the Panthers to a 62-49 victory in Monday’s home opener against Monmouth at the Sports Arena.
Afterward, coach Ron Hunter was more pleased with one than the other.
“We won for two reasons. No. 1, our defense carried us and the other was our big fella came to play,” Hunter said, slapping Vincent’s thigh.
The 6-10 Vincent, who has had issues with consistency, was too much for Monmouth’s front court, which didn’t feature a player taller than 6-9. He tied a record first set by Sylvester Morgan against Mercer in 2005. Georgia State finished with 13, one short of tying the school record set against Florida International last year. Partially because of Vincent, Georgia State’s defense limited the Hawks to 27.8 percent shooting.
Vincent, who finished with five points and eight rebounds, didn’t know that he tied the school record, but looked forward to calling his high school coach, Northside’s Kenneth Lawrence in Columbus, to tell him.
“This guy can be really good, he has no idea how good he can be,” Hunter said.
Hunter wasn’t as effusive about White, who continued to struggle in the first half until finding his shooting stroke in the second half.
White was the team’s leading scorer after the first two games with a 16.5 points-per-game average, but he was shooting 36.7 percent. He also had more turnovers (11) than assists (four). He improved in some of those areas Monday, hitting 45.4-percent of his shots with four assists but five turnovers.
But Hunter knows White can do more, perhaps by trying to do less.
“He’s playing too fast,” Hunter said. “He’s playing 10 times times faster than he did a year ago. He’s in a hurry, like his coach. He has to slow down. He’s the one that’s driving our car and our car is always out of control. I know that we will get there.”
Georgia State will host Tennessee State at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the continuation of this region of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. The Tigers are coached by former Panther Travis Williams. Tennessee State defeated South Alabama, 68-57, giving Williams his first victory on the Division I level. South Alabama will take on Monmouth at 4 p.m. to open Tuesday’s action.
After a scrappy, or sloppy, first half in which Georgia State closed with a 7-2 run to take a 30-23 lead, the Panthers came out in the second half rolling on offense.
White scored five consecutive points and R.J. Hunter added a 3-pointer to complete an 8-0 run and give the Panthers a 38-23 lead with 17:20 left in the game.
It was a much different start than the in the first half, when the Panthers committed five turnovers on their first six possessions and had trouble running their offensive sets throughout the half.
The Panthers cleaned up their issues in the second half and continued the run, opening up a 41-25 lead on a three-point play by Rashaad Richardson with 15:04 left.
Though the Panthers shot 51.2 percent, an improvement of almost 15 percent on the season average, Hunter said it’s the defense, led by Vincent, that will allow him to get his seven minutes of sleep Monday.
“We want to be great and that wasn’t a great effort,” he said.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu