Atkins sparks Georgia State to third consecutive win

By Stan Awtrey

For the AJC

Manny Atkins continues to find a way to contribute to Georgia State’s basketball success.

On Tuesday night he threw a half-court pass that led to Rashaad Richardson’s game-winning shot against Tennessee State. On Wednesday afternoon he discovered his shooting touch and scored a career-high 26 points to lead the Panthers to a 75-73 win over South Alabama in the final game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at the GSU Sports Arena.

Georgia State (3-2) swept all three of its games in the tournament. The Panthers are off until Monday, when they host East Carolina at 7 p.m.

Atkins is a 6-foot-6 junior from Tucker who played his first two seasons at Virginia Tech before transferring to Georgia State. After scoring 21 points at BYU, Atkins scored only six in the next two games. But when his first two shots fell Wednesday, his confidence started to grow.

He wound up making eight of 11 from the floor, including five of six 3-pointers. He also led the team with seven rebounds.

“I told myself to take it game-by-game and keep playing hard,” Atkins said. “Tonight the first few shots fell, and after that I got myself going. I felt good, and I kept on shooting. Every time I shot it, I thought it was going in.”

Atkins scored 19 points by halftime. South Alabama made some halftime adjustments and left fewer opportunities for Atkins in the second half. Freshman R.J. Hunter filled the void by scoring 16 of his career-high 25 points in the second period.

“Manny was incredible in the first half, really all game, and R.J. picked him up in the second half,” Panthers coach Ron Hunter said. “Two great performances, but a great team win.”

Georgia State needed all the offense it could muster to fend off South Alabama’s Augustine Rubit, who had his third 20-point game of the tournament. The 6-foot-7 junior from Houston scored 31 points, which matched his career best, and added a game-high 11 rebounds. He scored 72 points in the three tournament games.

Georgia State led 72-64 with 2:20 left in the game, only to see South Alabama whittle away with a barrage of 3-pointers. The last one, from Xavier Roberson, left the Jaguars trailing 74-73. South Alabama then fouled R.J. Hunter, who made the first free throw but missed the second, his only miss in seven tries. Mychal Ammons grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 11.3 seconds.

When South Alabama put the ball in play for the final shot, they discovered too late that Georgia State had switched from a matchup zone to a man-to-man defense.

“I felt like I just did not want to give up a shot,” Ron Hunter said.

The ploy worked. Atkins and Devonta White switched players as the Jags inbounded. The ball went to Ammons, who had no room to drive the lane and wound up on the floor without even getting off a final shot.

“We won tough games,” Hunter said. “This part of the year is to teach them how to win. I can’t do anything in practice to prepare them for this. This is just getting this group better. … And we’re getting a ton of experience. We’ve seen everything in the first two weeks of the season.”

13 comments Add your comment

PiAlpha92

November 21st, 2012
9:07 pm

Good tournament guys. Looking forward to the East Carolina game on Monday. Student section, way to piss of the USA parents. The argument outside was classic.

Steve Nash's Pick and Roll

November 21st, 2012
9:27 pm

@Usajags – where are you now you piece of filth? WE OWN YOU!!!

Pennsylvania CAA fan

November 21st, 2012
9:32 pm

This is how I stumbled onto the ajc site. This is a good program. I hate to see bb go from the CAA. Great coach. Seems like good kids. Doesn’t take away from the horrible GSU football fans though

Best of luck.

Alum

November 21st, 2012
9:47 pm

GREAT Job Kids! Off to a great start. Being so young you guys are doing well. Not sure how we’ll fare in conference but looking great so far.
GO PANTHERS!

RidgeRunner

November 21st, 2012
10:13 pm

Good work Stan.

Funny Pennsylvania CAA fan, that is not what all those obnoxious CAAZone fan say. Kiss of bud! Glad to get out of those hateful butt end conference.

ajg-marietta

November 21st, 2012
10:43 pm

Nice win over the Bama Southern Jaguars. It should have been by a bigger margin but the team was definitely tired. Hell, I was tired just going to the games.

Milwaukee Panther

November 21st, 2012
11:34 pm

My heart can’t take two games in a row like this.

Go Panthers!

Panther

November 22nd, 2012
2:33 am

@PiAlpha92
You’re welcome

Bernie Matt

November 22nd, 2012
11:35 am

Some good basketball going on downtown! GO Panthers!

banddad

November 22nd, 2012
11:45 am

Can not wait to see this young team in the Sun Belt next year ,they will be one of the top teams.Jagoffs 0-3 in the tourney they did not represent the Sun Belt very well in playing or sportsman ship from their frustated fans.

jemjr1@

November 22nd, 2012
12:01 pm

Manny Atkins will be player of the year in CAA CONFERENCE. This kid can shoot the ball. R.J.Hunter will be freshman of the year in the conference. The panthers will need some inside help to win the conference title.

BBFAN

November 22nd, 2012
12:06 pm

No matter how bad things get for GSU sports, we can always count on Alabama Southern to make us feel better about ourselves.

a22matic

November 23rd, 2012
10:52 pm

jemjr1@ – you’re dead on with your analysis about the lack of inside game. James Vincent has no presence in the middle. He spends too much time out near the three point line attempting to set screens. The other big men they played weren’t strong either. I was lucky enough to catch the Monm & Alab games, and this young team has potential. I like three young freshman R.J.’s game. Coaches son who has sound fundamentals. If the team had of hit their free throws like R.J. did, the game wouldn’t have been close. White and Atkins were also solid. I’ll be at the Mon night game to see how the Panthers perform. Go GSU!