It would appear that there is in fact no place like home for Ron Hunter’s Panthers this season. Georgia State enters Monday night’s contest against James Madison with a 9-0 record this season at home. However, the Panthers will be returning to the Sports Arena having experienced a fresh lesson on how hard it is to win on the road in the CAA after losing twice last week to Northeastern and Delaware.
"After two hard-fought games on the road, our guys are going to be glad to be home playing in front of a great environment,” commented Hunter. “As we have said all along, we have to defend our home court and split on the road to get to where we want to be at the end of the season."
The Panthers were led in Saturday’s loss by a pair of double-doubles from seniors Eric Buckner and Brandon McGee. Buckner has been one of Georgia State’s best players all season but McGee has experienced a very up and down season while continually struggling to find the floor.
"I thought Brandon did a lot of really good things for us," said Hunter. "We needed a spark to our offense and he definitely gave us that. He was able to open our perimeter game and push the defense out, allowing our team to get some easy baskets in the lane.”
While Coach Hunter searches for ways to open up the Panther offense his team has continued to play great defense. Georgia State enters the game ranked in the top 15 in the nation in scoring defense, field goal defense, and steals while coming in a 35th in blocked shots.
The Panther defense will look to bottle up the Dukes’ leading scorers A.J. Davis and Humpty Kitchens, who average 16.7 and 15.7 points per game, respectively.
One of the characteristics of this Georgia State team has been its depth. On any night there are number of players that can step up and have a big night. In the Panthers 19 games this season they have had eight different players lead the team in scoring in a single game. Jihad Ali has led the team in scoring five times, Buckner has done it four times, and the trio of Rashaad Richardson, Devonta White, and James Fields have each done it twice.
If the Panthers are going to be successful they need to identify a go to scorer. Brandon McGee has tons of talent, but he had multiple chances to win the game against Delaware and couldn’t deliver in the clutch. The team’s leading scorer, Devonta White, is certainly very good at scoring in transition as well as with the jump shot off the pass, but has not shown a consistent ability to create his own shot. The most consistent player on the team at scoring off the dribble and making his own opportunity has been Jihad Ali, but he must find crafty ways to do this by utilizing misdirection and pump fakes rather than athleticism.
The Panthers have yet to identify their go-to guy. Perhaps that is okay when you have eight different guys that can score, but the question remains who Coach Hunter knows he can rely on to score when it matters most.