Georgia State put together their best performance of the season Friday night as they defeated the Hofstra pride 85-50. The win was the largest margin of victory in CAA tournament history and the most points scored ever by a Panther team in the CAA tournament.
The Panthers were simply unstoppable inside the paint as Eric Buckner lead the charge with 21 points and 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes of play. Devonta White added 13 points and James Fields contributed 14 points.
“Our guys played really hard tonight,” Hunter said after the game. “We said before the game these kids are on a mission. No one gave us any respect all year and I have never seen any group of kids more hungry.”
At beginning of the season the media that covers the CAA picked Georgia State to finish next to last in the conference this season. Coach Ron Hunter was told he was crazy for taking this job. Now, after the fourth 20 win season in school history, Georgia State is getting noticed in the CAA.
“Absolutely this team can make a run in the tournament,” Hofstra coach Mo Cassara said. “They are big and athletic, play with great passion, and are a very tough matchup for anyone in the league.”
Hofstra came out of the gates playing very aggressive defensively and pushing the tempo. They found success with this early and after eight minutes of play trailed the Panthers only by two, 15-13. However, that’s when things would derail. After four turnovers in a row the Panthers would go on a 10-2 run and never look back. Over the last 12 minutes of the first half, Georgia State outscored the pride 30-9.
Eric Buckner was dominant whenever he was on the floor. The senior forward had been snubbed the night before by not receiving the CAA Defensive Player of the Year Award. And while he downplayed the importance of it, his Coach was ready to speak out against it.
“If he (Buckner) isn’t the best defensive player in the league then there is something wrong,” commented Hunter. “He doesn’t have to come out and say it, but his Coach will. He changes the game with his play.”
Mike Moore of Hofstra, the CAA’s leading scorer, once again led his team with 16 points. Stevie Mejia also contribute 14 points for the Pride.
Another plus for Georgia State was that the big lead throughout the second half allowed Coach Hunter to rest some of his best players. That could be key as Georgia State looks to win four games in four days. The bench players also responded to the increased time as they scored 28 of Georgia State’s points compared to just one point from the Hofstra bench players.
Coach Hunter has used the disrespect the Panthers receive to fuel and motivate his team. But he assured tonight that this game wasn’t meant to be a statement game.
“We weren’t trying to send a statement,” continued Hunter. “We believe we are a great team. We have a chip on our shoulder right now. It’s been there all season but right now it’s magnified by 100.”
His senior leader echoed that sentiment.
“We didn’t come here to win one game,” said Jihad Ali. “We all want to win the whole thing.”
Georgia State will face George Mason in the quarterfinals tomorrow night at 8:30. The game can be heard on WRAS 88.5.
Panther fans can follow me @GaStateChris on twitter and check the Panthersville forums for all the latest updates from Richmond throughout the weekend.