Down 10 with just two minutes left in the first half and their two best players struggling immensely, it looked like a safe bet that the Georgia State Panthers would see their winning streak end at nine. Thankfully, that was before RJ Hunter completely took over the game and once again showed the country why he is one of the best players all of college basketball.
After only scoring four in the first half, Hunter came out firing after the break. With Georgia State (13-6, 6-0) down 37-39 with just over 15 minutes to play, Hunter went on to score the next 18 points for the Panthers to give the visitors a 55-52 lead with a little more than seven minutes left on the clock. When the clock ran out for the final time, Hunter had tallied 33 points in total, 29 of which came in the second half alone.
Manny Atkins added yet another solid performance with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Ryan Harrow added 17 points and four assists, as well.
“All of us were a little too pumped early, but we didn’t let an early deficit get to us and did the little things we do in the second half to win the game.” commented Head Coach Ron Hunter after the game.
The top two schools in the Sun Belt from an offensive standpoint combined for 12 lead changes and nine ties throughout the contest that ended with the elder Hunter getting his 50th win with the program. The only other coach to win 50 games in his first three years at GSU is Lefty Driesell.
The Panthers fell down 10 early in the game, but a pair of late three pointers by Harrow and Hunter cut the lead at the break to just four and swung momentum in the favor of the road team. The second half opened with another made three pointer by Hunter and the Panthers were officially hot.
GSU has had its fair share of heated moments in games this year, and this game was no exception. With just over 13 minutes left in the game, Hunter was fouled and given two shots. UL-Lafayette head coach Bobby Marlin believed the foul to be on the pass and called a timeout to protest. Mid-timeout, Marlin was accessed a technical foul and two free throws turned into four.
“He made shots, he got calls, he got two free throws on a pass and I gave him two more on a technical – that’s four he didn’t deserve – but he got to the free-throw line and that was a big part of the basketball game.” said Marlin.
When asked again about the officiating, Marlin had more insight on why his team suffered their first home loss of the year, “They played six on five; his dad was on the floor half the night. There’s nothing we can do if they are going to get those calls.”
With the loss, the Ragin’ Cajuns fell to 12-7 on the year and 3-3 in the conference, while the Panthers maintained their two game conference lead of Little Rock and Western Kentucky. Needless to say, when February 22nd rolls and UL-L comes to Atlanta, Georgia State fans will be excited.
However, before the Panthers get the Cajuns on their home court, they first have to battle UL-Monroe on Saturday, and UL-M is fresh off of a 69-51 defeat at the hands of Western Kentucky. Stay tuned.