It finally ended. Tonight the Hilltoppers experienced their worst conference loss at home since January 24, 1998 (a 22 point loss to Arkansas St.). To put it simply, they got THUMPED.
Things got started off slow for the Tops in the first half, unable to get a true rythym, however keeping the Panthers within a few possessions. The halftime score saw a Georgia State lead of 34 to 29 and then, exactly like we saw in football games like Troy and ULL, and like we have seen at times this basketball season, halftime chaos occurs. I don’t know what it is about Hilltopper sports, but halftime just seems to drain any sort of competition WKU has. The same halftime effect occurred once again tonight. The Panthers went on a 15-0 run to start the second half, and WKU was unable to get a single field goal until 7 minutes and 32 seconds of 2nd half play had been completed. The Panthers would secure a 21 to 3 run up to 11:14 left to play. From then on, to sum up the rest of the game, the Tops would get frustrated… Georgia State would remain relentless… and Coach Harper would shake his head in disappointment. Thus leaving the final score of 77 to 54 with the Georgia State victory.
Georgia State proved tonight that they very well could be the best team in the Sun Belt. Tonight’s win gives them their seventh win in a row as they keep a high rolling momentum. Their key players for the night, plain and simple, their starting five. The Panther bench only provided 7 points, the rest of the work load was provided by a well rounded starting five. Panther scoring leaders were Manny Atkins (18 pts); Curtis Washington (16 pts); Devonta White (13 pts); R.J. Hunter (12 pts); and finally Ryan Harrow (11 pts). Not to mention, as a team the Panthers were a solid 22 of 22 from the free throw line. That stat being a Diddle Arena Record, my hat is off to them with that one. I also was truly impressed with Forward Manny Atkins, as 14 of his 18 points came in the first half, as he only averages 13 PPG.
Now for the Tops. I’ve made notice before of sloppy play by the Tops. However this time, WKU made a sloppy game look like perfection with their play tonight. To put it simply, it was quite pathetic. I would compare tonights game to the Arkansas State game last year at Diddle. Most would think, how could a team play worse than that game? Well the Tops did just that, they played worse. In that game against the Red Wolves the Tops had one lone double digit scorer (T.J. Price: 21 pts). As a team WKU shot 16 of 50, that being 32%. Also to mention the Tops had 11 turnovers, 20 personal fouls, and shot 12 of 19 (63%) from the free throw line. In tonight’s game, the Tops had one lone double digit scorer (T.J. Price: 15 pts). As a team WKU shot 18 of 63, that being 28.6%. Also, the Tops had 16 turnovers, 21 personal fouls, and shot 8 of 16 (50%) from the free throw line. So you take a terrible game’s stats from last year, and just make them worse to sum up how the Tops played tonight.
One stat I did find on a positive note was the Tops finding 22 offensive boards. They had 21 defensive rebounds, totaling the boards at 43. Other than that, it was just a horrendous played game. I mentioned in the Game Preview that the Tops needed to stay out of foul trouble, due to the fact of Georgia State being lethal at the FT line. The Tops did exact opposite. They allowed the Panther claws to sink into them slowly as GSU went 22 of 22, as i mentioned above. I also stated WKU’s need to actually put up points, once again they did just opposite. The Tops, as i mentioned above, had just one double digit scorer with T.J. Price. Now to my last point of emphasis, I mentioned WKU’s need to play good tight perimeter defense. The Tops did limit Georgia State to only sinking three 3 point baskets, but was unable to stop them from inside the arch with the Panthers shooting 26 of 54 (48%) from the floor.
Rounding out the night the Tops fall to a 10-6 record on the season, and a 2-1 in conference play. They also fall to a 7-2 record in Diddle Arena.
The Panthers dismantled the pre-season SBC favorites in an embarrassing fashion. So where do we go from here? After this game, the Tops can only improve. It will be interesting to see what Coach Harper does with this team over the next week prior to Thursday’s game against Arkansas-Little Rock. I’d say a lot of sweat will fall on the Diddle Hardwood between now and next week. Until then Topper fans, lift your heads up, there is only one direction we can go from here; Up.