Georgia State steamrolls Troy, faces Georgia Southern in semifinals

Georgia State basketball teams watch their favorite players for entertainment and to add to their skill sets. Photo by Julian Pineda | The Signal

The difference eight days makes– after an underwhelming loss to Troy on March 1, Georgia State defeated the Trojans 73-51 in wire-to-wire fashion in the Sun Belt Conference tournament quarterfinals.

Head coach Ron Hunter’s Panthers deployed one of their best performances of the season. Georgia State held Troy to a lowly 31.1 field goal percentage, in comparison to their 50.9 percent clip. Hunter said he didn’t care who they played after the first round bye– the Panthers played like the Trojans were only a roadblock to the semifinals

“We came out and did what we needed to tonight,” Hunter said. “We got back to playing the type of defense we are capable of and it showed from the opening tip. We did a great job of spreading the ball around to find open looks. It was a great win, but we know we still have a lot of work left.”

Troy scored 24 and 19 points in the first and second halves respectively, their two lowest outputs of the season. This type of defensive outing is not the normal lately. It’s how the Panthers played during their January-February 10-game winning streak, holding seven of 10 opponents under 40 percent shooting.

In just 25 minutes, Jeff Thomas led the game with 19 points on 8-12 shooting. 2018 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year D’Marcus Simonds was right behind with 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Both battled early foul trouble but survived long enough to lead a dominant effort.

Troy had Georgia State’s number in both games during the regular season and in the 2017 Sun Belt semifinals. The 20-point margin of victory is the second consecutive such game for the Panthers.

Semifinals: Edition 3 of State v. Southern

They meet again. The Georgia Southern Eagles defeated Louisiana Monroe 63-55 hours after the Panthers won on the same court. The rivals split the regular season series with the home teams picking up both wins.

However, All-Sun Belt First Team selection Tookie Brown did not play due to injury in State’s 83-66 victory. Despite the close 85-80 score, the Eagles nearly coasted in the rematch where Brown was available. Brown scored 23 points, went 9-14 from the free throw line and led the game with five assists.

The Eagles (55 points on 20-46 shooting) nor Brown (13 points on 3-10 shooting) played their sharpest offensive game against Monroe, but they were their best in the final stretch.

But a similar offensive output could be trouble for Southern. Georgia State scored 90 and 73 points in their last two games. The Eagles also caught a fairly cold Devin Mitchell this season as he made only two three-pointers against them. As of lately he’s been absolutely on fire, making 12 long distance attempts in the past three games.

Neither quarterfinals opponents for State and Southern found easy work scoring. Troy shot 31.1 percent and Monroe was worse, going 29.7 percent on the day against Southern.

However, putting the ball in the basket hasn’t been State’s problem against “That Team Down South” in 2018– it’s been containing big man Montae Glenn. He’s out for the game after sustaining a knee injury during Wednesday’s practice.

Georgia State has less problems on their hands compared to Georgia Southern. A Brown by takeover could be what it takes to overcome the disadvantages on paper.

Tipoff is at 2:00 p.m. CST March 10 inside New Orleans’ Lakefront Arena and ESPN3 is streaming the game. The winner faces either No. 1 seed Louisiana or No. 4 seed Texas-Arlington for the Sun Belt’s automatic bid to the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

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