Hunter, Panthers dominate Patriots, 78-60 in last meeting as conference foes
As the final fireworks crackled above the Mason Pond Saturday night, R.J. Hunter emerged from the depths of the Patriot Center. A small cut near his right eye winced as a smile stretched across his youthful, freshman face.
And for good reason.
He had much to be pleased with after scoring 25 points for his Georgia State University Panthers, who spoiled George Mason University's homecoming in a dominating 78-60 win.
"Our kids couldn't wait for this game to get started," said Georgia State coach Ron Hunter. "We talked since Wednesday that this was the last time that we would play in this building. After the first media timeout, even one of my captains said, 'Coach, don't take me out. This one's personal.'"
Before Saturday, the Panthers had never won a game against the Patriots in the Patriot Center in 12 meetings between the schools. And in their final meeting, Georgia State made it.
The Panthers led by as many as 27 points in what was a mostly uncontested game from the 7:19 minute mark in the first half onward.
Mason couldn't find the answer for Georgia State's outside shooting in the first stanza, as the Panthers shot 64 percent from behind the arc on 7 of 11 shooting. Georgia State's 51 first half points were the most allowed in a half by Mason all season long, providing the Panthers with an insurmountable 15-point halftime lead.
"We just didn't seem to have the energy," said Mason coach Paul Hewitt. "Today, we seemed just a little more passive and not into the ball. They were going wherever they wanted and we couldn't really put pressure on the passers."
Sherrod Wright led the way for the Patriots, contributing 19 points on 4 of 6 shooting from three-point range. Despite Wright's efforts, the remaining Patriot starters added a combined 14 points and offensively, were unable to battle all the way back.
Coach Hunter told his players throughout the past week especially that they were playing with a chip on their shoulders and to leave their mark on the Colonial Athletic Association.
After announcing their decision to leave the CAA last April, the conference ruled them ineligible to compete in the postseason conference tournament.
"The last five games we played this season, we wanted to play like the conference tournament and that's how we've been playing," said Hunter.
For all the Panthers cared, the win might as well have been a tournament game.