Fresh off their first victory of the season last Friday, Georgia State will face a familiar old foe tonight in the form of the Samford Bulldogs. Georgia State is the Bulldogs’ most frequently faced opponent in their history as this will be the 48th meeting between these two former conference foes. Georgia State holds a very slight edge in the series 24-23.
Samford (0-2) has lost their two opening contests to Youngstown State, 76-69, and Jacksonville, 70-57. Against Jacksonville the Bulldogs fell behind early due to a very slow start, something the Panthers can certainly relate to. After trailing 42-25 at the half Samford would cut the lead to single digits with just over 5 minutes left. However, the Bulldogs got no closer and would drop their first road contest of the season. The Bulldogs were led by Jeffrey Merrit who scored a career high 22 points against the Dolphins.
Last season the Panthers suffered a heartbreaking defeat to the Bulldogs. Georgia State led by as much as 11 and even had an 8 point lead with just over one minute remaining. But a late rally would send the game to overtime and Samford would outscore Georgia State 14-5 in overtime.
Georgia State will try to avenge that loss this evening. Devonta White, Josh Micheaux, and Eric Buckner have led the Panther attack so far this season and will be counted on to have big games tonight. White is coming off a 22 point performance last Friday against McNeese State. Micheaux was also key in the victory after recording a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Buckner played limited minutes on Friday against the Cowboys after being injured early in the second half, but did return late in the game. He wil be counted upon tonight to play at the best of his abilities against a smaller Bulldogs lineup.
Another interesting thing to keep an eye on is the play of Brandon McGee. For the second game in a row McGee saw his minutes limited against the Cowboys. Tony Kimbro and Josh Micheaux have played well and as a result, McGee has found himself at the bottom of the rotation. He is one of the more talented players on the team and his combination of size and athleticism make him a difficult matchup for defenders.
Facing the Bulldogs, the Panthers will need to key on Senior Jeffrey Merrit. The 6’6 guard was the Bulldogs leading scorer last season and has averaged 16.5 points per game in their two contests thus far. The key to the Samford offense is movement. They use a lot of screens and cuts in an attempt to get easy back door layups. It will be incumbent upon Eric Buckner to stay disciplined on defense and protect the rim. Buckner is just three blocks away from entering the top 10 in blocks in Panther history.
The story all year for the Panthers has been slow starts caused by poor shooting and turnovers. In order for the Panthers to notch their second win in a row, they must play better in the first half. Getting good ball movement, taking smart shots, and attacking the rim were the reasons the Panthers played so much better in the second half on Friday. The Panthers have been playing very well defensively, so if they can get control of the game early, they will put themselves in great position to get the win.