Peach state showdown in Hanner

Colin Ritsick

No. 1 Georgia Southern hosts No.2 Georgia State tonight in a Sun Belt rivalry game that has playoff implications written all over it.

The three leading scorers in the Sun Belt will all be on the court tonight. State’s Ryan Harrow leads the league with 20.6 points per game followed by his teammate R.J. Hunter, who scores 20.0 per game. GSU’s Hewitt is third in the Sun Belt with 19.6 points per game.

Harrow and Hunter are the best backcourt tandem in the conference; “[They are] A backcourt that would be very competitive in the ACC and probably start for most ACC teams or SEC teams,” head coach Mark Byington said. Harrow started for Kentucky in 2013 before transferring to Georgia State.

“You’re not going to stop them…they’re going to score, they’re going to make tough shots,” Byington said.

Harrow is small, quick and likes to drive to the basket; crafty, as Hewitt refers to him. He can score from anywhere and has a knack for making opponents look silly under the rim.

“It’s really difficult because he’s such a smart player. He’s not out of control where he is charge-prone, and he’s got a really good floater,” GSU center Trent Wiedeman said.

Hunter is long, athletic and can shoot the lights out if he gets hot. He gets to the free throw line more than anyone on his team and also blocks shots. Hunter is a threat on both sides of the court.

To slow them down, Hewitt said the defense has to be unified and help each other out. Rotations on defense, help side defense and shrinking their gaps in order to force tough shots has been the focus in practice this week.

“We can’t let those guys get in our paint,” Hewitt said.

As potent as Harrow and Hunter are on offense, Georgia State’s defense has holes. They give up more three’s than anyone in the Sun Belt.

It just so happens that Georgia Southern makes the most three’s in the Sun Belt.

“We’ve been shooting the ball really well,” Hewitt said. “That’s definitely going to be a big emphasis in the game.”

The Panthers are also relatively under-sized. They play quick, aggressive defense and lead the league in steals with 9.2 per game. But, there isn’t anyone that can bang with Wiedeman down low.

Byington and Wiedeman both dismissed the notion that they are going to be looking to exploit Georgia State’s size because of the zone defense they play. Byington said that it’s hard to pick a particular person to attack with the Panther’s zone.

Hewitt knows that Georgia State is worried about the big man, however.

“I know they’re going to try to keep the ball out of his hands. I know they’re going to play a lot of zone. But we gotta feed the big fella, keep him happy so he can work for us,” Hewitt said.