Dominant second half defense led to 21-point comeback and 61-56 win over VCU

Women's basketball Center Shaq Miller-McCray being embraced by senior Centers Haley Gerrin and Taleah Williams. Photo By Rashad Milligan | the Signal

Georgia State won their first game of the season 61-56 over VCU after overcoming a 17-point halftime deficit. K.K. Williams and Madison both contributed 15 points and three steals a piece. Kierra Williams finished with 13 points, five rebounds, five assists and a steal.

“It feels good to get a W and go over there in the left column. Also to do it at home, I thought that was pretty special and hopefully we can build on this,” said Baldwin.

The Panthers improve to 1-3 on the year and have seven games left on the non-conference slate.

Slow out the gate

Georgia State got off to a sluggish start trailing 7-0. Point guard, Madison Newby steered the offense with her calmness while directing plays. Newby shot 62.3 percent from the line her freshman campaign, but knocked down two free throws and a layup with contact for the Panthers first four points.

“When we’re down and some of my teammates are down, I have to be the one to pep them up, get them going, get them moving around and making shots–playing together really,” said Newby.

The Rams scored eight of their 26 first half points in the paint in the first period. Georgia State put a small bandage on the bleeding and ended the period down 16-12.

The Rams found their groove again with a slur of easy baskets. They stretched their lead to 31-14.

A low of the half was a Danielle Hammond block of Deja Mitchell that went out of bounds off a Ram, leaving a second on the shot clock– the Panthers handed the ball away on the inbound, . Bria Gibson converted an and-1  on the fast break. Gibson led the Rams in points and rebounds with 15 and six respectively.

A few charges going the Panthers way was an ignition for the team, despite a 17-point halftime deficit.

A comeback brewing

A repeat of the 4-of-29 first half shooting in the first half would not be the case. The Panthers used a quick 9-0 run shortly after halftime cut the Rams’ lead to make the score 39-29. The Panthers displayed stifling defense for the remainder of the day and gave up just 11 points the rest of the quarter.

In the third, K.K. Williams scored 10 points, nailed two three-pointers, gathered three steals and made a buzzer beater. Heading into the fourth, the Panthers had a fighting chance with a score of 51-44.

“Coach came back into the locker room, she told us that we just need to chip away at the score and get stops on defense. So that’s exactly what I had to do,” said Williams.

More focused defense led to easy flowing offense for the Panthers. Their attention to detail was rewarded when a Kierra Henry layup tied the game for the first time since the opening minute.

VCU visibly began to react and take longer to make decisions with the ball in the final period. Much of their struggles can be attributed to the Georgia State defense that held them scoreless in the fourth until 2:50 remaining.

Newby made a pair of free throws to give Georgia State a 53-51 lead, their first of the game. Francesca Minali grabbed some huge rebounds down the stretch and a key deflection by Williams sealed the game up.

On the play, Williams said they were playing a 3-2 zone defense, and the ball simply came to her lane. Newby picked up the loose ball sank two more free throws. The Panthers held on to lead for their first home win since March.

In perspective

Newby played in just one home game last season after going down with a season-ending leg.

“It feels new. It feel like it’s my first time because I haven’t played [a home game] since I was 17 or 18 years old, so it’s definitely exciting for me to be back on the court on my home gym.”

Georgia state is back in action on Sunday for their second and final game of the GSU Thanksgiving Classic. They face Western Kentucky at 2 p.m., who is coming off a 67-62 win over Mercer.