Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Five pre-game thoughts: Georgia State

1.) From a logistical perspective, this game has scared the hell out of me since the schedule was released—the longest trip of the CAA season, coming in midweek, at the start of a stretch of four roadies in five games once classes have already resumed. And that was before the Flying Dutchmen began auditioning for the remake of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” If you need a reminder why I was quivering with fear long before the Winter from Hell, remember the last time Hofstra visited Georgia State: The Panthers routed the Dutchmen, 76-55, on the final Wednesday of the regular season two years ago, a loss that ended up costing the Dutchmen a tournament bye. Fortunately for the Dutchmen, the trip to Atlanta was an uneventful one and they’ve had more than 24 hours to prepare and relax.

2.) From a basketball perspective, Georgia State games always scare the hell out of me. The Panthers have yet to escape the bottom half of the CAA nor finish with a .500 league record in their six seasons in the league and, at 5-8 and in eighth place, aren’t likely to end either streak this season. But the Panthers are always unpredictable—this season alone they’ve beaten VCU and James Madison and had Old Dominion down by three in the final minute before falling—and always gel during the season’s waning days and make life hellish for someone. The Panthers, who have won their last two games over UNC Wilmington and Towson, are 8-8 in CAA games played after Feb. 1 the last two-plus years, have won a tournament game in three of the previous five years and lost in the first round by a point the other two times (including against the Dutchmen last year). Yup. Scary.

3.) Charles Jenkins and Greg Washington are the only Dutchmen to have ever faced Georgia State. Jenkins scored 53 points in the Dutchmen’s back-to-back wins over the Panthers last year and is averaging 20.5 points, 3.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game in four career contests. Washington scored the game-winning basket against the Panthers (off a Jenkins pass) with less than 20 seconds left in the CAA Tournament opener and is averaging 5.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in the four games.

4.) The Dutchmen will need both players to be at their best tonight. Jenkins was oddly out of sync all day Saturday, when he missed a career-high five free throws and failed to pull down a rebound for only the second time in the last two seasons, and was generally kept in check the previous three games by VCU, Drexel and George Mason. The Wolf must appear tonight. Washington, who was scoreless against Drexel and Mason, had a much-needed eight-point effort while providing his usual stellar defense. Washington will be essential in shutting down Georgia State’s best player, 6-foot-10 junior Eric Buckner.

5.) Every game at this point in the season is a grind-it-out affair, but this one—on the road in a just-win-baby scenario—really fits the mold. Georgia State is holding opponents to just 32.3 percent shooting beyond the 3-point arc, so Brad Kelleher, Shemiye McLendon and perhaps Yves Jules will have their hands full trying to provide the couple 3-pointers that assure the Dutchmen of victory (hey the trends never lie!). The Dutchmen’s fundamental strengths will come in handy tonight: They’re shooting 76.9 percent from the free throw line as opposed to just 60.6 percent for Georgia State. Don’t be surprised at all if the free throws are the difference between a happy flight home and an unhappy one.

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