Jeff Thomas has a Career Night in the victory over East Tennessee State
Head coach Ron Hunter is now 8-0 in regular season home openers, as Georgia State defeated East Tennessee State on Monday 74-68 behind a career-high 26 points from Jeff Thomas and 21 points from reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year D’Marcus Simonds. However, it was newcomer Damon Wilson who made perhaps the biggest play of the night, drilling a three with 50 seconds remaining in the game to give the Panthers a 72-68 lead.
Hunter was pleased with his team’s outing, but he also acknowledged the fact that many corrections need to be made following their next game.
“We beat a good team, but our offense is still not there probably won’t be until we get Devin [Mitchell] back,” Hunter said. Mitchell is dealing with an undisclosed injury that he suffered in a private scrimmage game against Kennesaw State in October.
The Panthers had a sluggish start to begin the game, but given the talent they have on the roster, it didn’t take long for them to show ETSU why they made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament last year. If you were unable to witness Georgia State’s first win of the season, here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of the victory:
Aside from Simonds, Thomas and Benlevi having stellar performances, the Panther faithful gave the team a much-needed boost throughout the game. Hunter gave the students much praise for showing their support of a team seeking their consecutive Sun Belt Championship.
The Panthers was a team recognized for playing astounding defense last year, holding opponents under 40 percent shooting frequently. ETSU managed to shoot just 35 percent from the floor and 17 percent from three-point range.
Although Hunter got valuable minutes out of his proven starters (Simonds, Thomas, and Benlevi), the offense of the Panthers struggled against ETSU’s defense. The Panthers shot just 39 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three. Role players such as Kane Williams, Jordan Tyson and Wilson must produce on the offensive end side of the ball for the Panthers to be a dominant force later in the season.
One could make the argument that if the Panthers were facing a more dominant opponent, they would have lost the game due to the fact they gave up 27 offensive rebounds. The Achilles heel for the Panthers entering this season was the ability to defend in the post. With a lack of reliability, and most importantly a lack of height, at the forward position, it’s going to be difficult for the Panthers to crash the glass and defend the post. Another issue for the Panthers was the turnovers. It was the first game of the season, so turnovers were to be expected; however, 13 turnovers are unacceptable. Hunter is confident once Mitchell returns to the lineup the flow of the offense will be much smoother.