Louisiana Tech did to Georgia State on Friday what the Panthers did to many of their opponents in the Sports Arena last year: the Bulldogs ran them out of the building, 86-68.
Led by Raheem Appleby, who scored a career-high 34 points on 14-of-19 shooting, Louisiana Tech pushed the pace as often as it could on offense and used a press and tough zone defense to contest most shots and passes. As the pace increased, Georgia State struggled. The result was Georgia State’s second consecutive loss after a three-game win streak. R.J. Hunter led the Panthers with 23 points and Manny Atkins and Devonta White chipped in 13 each.
Georgia State coach Ron Hunter was afraid that the tough schedule he put together, which has included Duke (7-0), Brigham Young (5-2) and East Carolina (5-0), might be too much for his inexperienced squad, which has just one senior. The Bulldogs, which feature several sophomores who played last year, made the Panthers look for a gear that they didn’t have. As a result, Georgia State’s offense turned into a series of hurried shots and one-on-ones.
“It’s hard on me,” Hunter said. “I knew the schedule would be difficult. You got to worry about the psyche of our kids … As I told them we are going to be a good veteran basketball teams. Before you can walk you crawl. We are playing some really good basketball teams right now.”
The team regained its composure in the second half, but the margin was too much to overcome. The Panthers shot 34.7 percent, missing free throws, layups and even an undefended dunk. They finished with 13 turnovers and 10 assists, evidence of the out-of-control nature in parts of the game, and were outrebounded by nine.
Defensively, the Panthers were unable to keep the Bulldogs from driving into the free-throw lane or down the baseline for open shots. Louisiana Tech shot 54.2 percent in the game and had 21 assists and 19 turnovers.
The blitz continued in the second half as the Bulldogs used a 12-0 run to open up a 56-30 lead. Appleby fueled the run with a three-point play, followed by a steal and that led to a dunk by Michale Kyser. Georgia State had chances to stem the surge, but Denny Burguillos missed a dunk and Hunter and T.J. Shipes missed four consecutive free throws. Hunter made up for it with two consecutive baskets before Appleby dunked to push the lead to 58-34.
The game started well for the Panthers, who ran out to a 14-7 lead early in the first half. Instead of folding, like some teams did when the experienced Panthers pushed last year, the Bulldogs responded with a 14-1 run to take a 21-15 lead.
“They were poised, like we were a year ago,” Hunter said.
After the Bulldogs took a 28-20 lead on an Appleby basket, Atkins completed a three-point play to cut the Panthers’ gap to 28-23. But Appleby started a 9-0 run with two jumpers to push the Bulldogs’ lead to 37-23.
“This is what we wanted, we wanted to play tough teams,” Hunter said.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu