The Sun Belt Conference tournament is less than two weeks away, and the Georgia State women’s basketball team blew two opportunities this past week to clinch a berth, losing to both UT-Arlington and Texas State on the road.
Luckily, the Panthers were able to clinch a spot in the tournament Sunday because No. 9 South Alabama lost eliminating itself from the tournament.
The Panthers, once again, could not win the games that count. The Panthers not being able to win big games has been a problem all season.
It started early in the season when they choked away their lead against then-No. 22 Georgia in the championship game of the GSU Invitational in December.
The Panthers had an opportunity to redeem themselves on Feb. 8, when they were ranked second in the conference, facing No. 1 Arkansas State at home. The game could have provided a tie-breaking advantage for the Panthers at the end of season.
However, Georgia State couldn’t win the big game once again as the Red Wolves pulled away with a 80-75 win and clinched the berth in the conference tournament after defeating South Alabama in the following game.
Georgia State had until next Saturday to win a game to clinch a spot in the tournament or for one of three other teams chasing to get in the tournament to to lose to earn its spot. No. 9 South Alabama was kind enough to give up its spot.
All Georgia State had to do was a win one game, but they have yet to win a game since Feb. 19 against Louisiana-Monroe.
Maybe, the Sun Belt has finally caught up on to the “giant killers.”
Earlier this season, the Panthers captured upset wins against the Sun Belt elite, including No. 1 Arkansas State on the road on Jan. 14 and then-No. 2 Texas State at home on Feb. 17.
At the beginning of the season, Georgia State was picked to finish eighth in a preseason poll by Sun Belt coaches, which showed there was no confidence from fellow conference members that Georgia State could compete for the conference title.
For a while, it looked like Georgia State had proven everyone wrong becoming the “giant killers,” but perhaps the coaches were right about the Panthers––they’re good enough to barely make the tournament but not good enough to make some noise in March.
Early on, Georgia State began to prove doubters wrong when they started conference play, even going on a five-game winning streak in January.
The streak abruptly ended with the Panthers’ loss to last-place Texas-Arlington.
It’s one thing to lose to the worst team in the conference, but they lost to the Mavericks twice. UT-Arlington has only three wins, two of which are victories against Georgia State.
Ending the streak should have brought the best of the women’s team, like it did for the men’s team, since they would no longer have to contend with the pressure of preserving the streak.
Unfortunately, it seems like it’s bringing out the worst in the Panthers.
The late-January snowstorm could be looked at as the root of the Panthers’ problems as it delayed games. The snow storm also caused them to go on a stretch of playing three games in less than a week in February, which brought fatigue.
Georgia State got run out the gym by Troy on Feb. 15, but managed to upset then-No. 2 Texas State in the following game followed by Louisiana-Monroe.
The race to the tournament is getting tight, and everybody’s banged up and tired at this point of the year.
Fatigue, injuries and chemistry can no longer be used as an excuse for Georgia State.
Can the Panthers put together some mental strength and make a run, or will they be like the conference coaches said: good enough to make the tournament but not enough to make some noise in March.
Only time will tell.