Georgia State missed a major opportunity to cement a quality win on its resume Monday night. The Panthers challenged Iowa State for a half, but couldn't withstand a hot start after the break by the Cyclones, falling 81-58 on the road.
Iowa State got the better of Georgia State in the second half when it got hot beyond the arc, led by Naz Long. The very athletic and highly touted backcourt of Georgia State had done well to keep the Cyclones contained in the first half, allowing just three 3-points on 12 attempts.
The second half blitz though was enough to bury the Panthers who couldn't find their shot after halftime.
The defensive job that Hunter and Harrow pulled off was impressive though, along with help inside against Georges Niang, who was contained for just 10 points and 11 rebounds. Most teams would be happy with that performance by the Iowa State star, but Georgia State couldn't replicate the success against the rest of the Cyclones.
Georgia State did a good job of attempting to run its offense through R.J. Hunter which is going to be key to its success this season. Hunter finished with 21 points, but he suffered from the same cold spell as the rest of the Panthers after the break. Hunter was effective late, but by then Iowa State had put things out of reach.
What should really have the Panthers excited though despite this lost opportunity, was the play of Markus Crider, who became an excellent outlet option when Hunter and Harrow were blocked by the defense of the Cyclones. Crider had 10 points and eight rebounds but most of that damage came in the first half. He had issues with foul trouble in the second half and his lack of presence was another factor in the Iowa State rout.
Despite all the talent on this Georgia State squad stacked with transfers, this is still a very shallow team in terms of players that could go toe-to-toe with bigger schools like Iowa State. That was evident Monday as the bench produced just nine points, and that was from just two players. Curtis Washington had his moments, but Kevin Ware never looked comfortable out on the floor against this team.
It is really disappointing that more couldn't have come from this team. Ron Hunter has done a great job of building this program, but there is still a lot of growing to do, especially when it comes to making things happen against opponents that should be favored.
Georgia State played like a team that belonged for almost 20 minutes, but until that stretches to 40, this team is going to be haunted by the loss it took to Louisiana-Lafayette in overtime during the Sun Belt Championship game. This team will constantly wonder if it missed its chance to be the darling of the dance last year, and it they have what it takes to repeat its conference performance this season.