Georgia State scored the final five points in the closing seconds to pull away for a 74-68 victory over the cold-shooting Bucs in a season-opening non-conference game Tuesday night at GSU Sports Arena.
“It’s too bad because you only get these opportunities maybe three or four times a year, but this was an opportunity for us to beat a really good team on their home court,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “We had the game going our way and we didn’t finish it.”
ETSU had scored five consecutive points of its own to cut the Panthers’ lead to 69-68 with 1:36 remaining, but Georgia State got a dagger 3-pointer from Pittsburgh transfer Damon Wilson with 48 seconds left and a dunk from Jeff Thomas seconds later for the final margin.
ETSU went 4 of 23 from 3-point range, a 17-percent effort that was too wild to overcome.
An action-packed sequence started with an airball for Patrick Good midway through the second half.
After missing a shot, Good hustled back on defense and grabbed one of his six rebounds. He hit Kevon Tucker with a pass in the corner and Tucker swished a 3-pointer to tie the game at 50.
After Good drew a charge, he picked up another assist when his bullet pass into the lane found Mladen Armus for a dunk and a 52-50 lead with 9:52 left.
It was in the midst of a 17-6 run for the Bucs.
BACK AND FORTH
Georgia State regained the lead at 59-56 with a 7-0 run capped by Thomas connecting from the left corner on a 3-pointer.
Moments later, Thomas made three free throws after Tray Boyd III fouled him while attempting a 3-point shot. The six-point swing left Georgia State up 62-56.
Bo Hodges broke a 3 1/2-minute scoring drought for the Bucs when he put in an offensive rebound to make it 62-58 with 4:01 left, but he was hit with a technical foul for yelling after his basket.
The Panthers scored four points before ETSU got the ball back, increasing their lead to 66-58.
“We lost our composure,” Forbes said. “We had the game going our direction.”
GEORGIA STATE LEADERS
Thomas led Georgia State with a career-high 26 points. He was 9 of 10 from the free throw line.
D’Marcus Simonds, the Sun Belt Conference player of the year, added 21. That was his average last season when he was honorable mention All-American. He was 6 of 17 from the floor. The Panthers shot 38.6 percent overall.
“To come in here and hold them to 38 percent on their court, that’s a pretty good effort,” Forbes said. “We just didn’t play well enough on offense.”
The Bucs shot 35 percent overall. Bo Hodges went 5 for 20 and missed both of his free throws. Armus made 5 of 15, Good was 2 for 8 and Boyd was 1 for 6.
“We missed umpteen opportunities at the basket,” Forbes said. “I thought our plan was pretty good. We got some great shots. We just didn’t make enough.”
Ten of the misses came on blocked shots.
The Bucs shot 15 percent from 3-point range in the first half and missed 25 of their 36 shots in the opening 20 minutes, yet somehow, they were down by only three points at halftime.
All the missed shots made for plenty of rebounds and ETSU used 27 offensive boards to out-rebound Georgia State 49-39.
“That sounds good, but that’s a lot of misses,” Forbes said.
Jeromy Rodriguez had 13 rebounds.
Isaiah Tisdale led the Bucs with 19 points. Hodges and Armus each had 11.
The Bucs face a quick turnaround. Their home opener is set for Thursday night when Hiwassee comes to Freedom Hall. Georgia State plays at Montana on Friday night.