ATLANTA- Devonta White scored a career-high 23 points and Georgia State used a dominating second half to defeat McNeese State, 69-50, Friday at the GSU Sports Arena for the first victory under new head coach Ron Hunter.
The Panthers outscored McNeese State 45-28 after the intermission to improve to 1-3 on the season. The Cowboys fell to 1-2.
"It feels great to get that first victory," commented Hunter after the game. "The only thing that feels better is hitting 18-of-19 free throws tonight. I am really happy about the second half.
"The first half was too much like how we played in Seattle and that is not good enough to get the job done. The light switch went off over the final 20 minutes and you could really see the confidence build in our team."
Josh Micheaux contributed a double-double with 16 points and a career-high 10 rebounds for the Panthers. Jihad Ali also had a career best with 14 rebounds, and James Vincent also reached double figures with 10 boards, along with eight points.
"The way James Vincent came off the bench in the second half was huge for us," continued Hunter. "He really gave us energy and really lifted us up. When he can play like that, it gives us a great opportunity to win. His play gives us an inside presence when Buckner needs a break."
Leading 33-31 with 16 minutes left, the Panthers used a 13-3 run over the next six minutes to build a 46-34 advantage. White keyed the run with a pair of free throws and a three-point play, and Vincent scored four points. During that stretch, GSU held Cowboys scoreless from the 14:38 mark until a basket by Dontae Cannon with 9:11 left.
Cannon scored five straight points, and then a jumper by Jeremie Mitchell pulled the Cowboys within 49-41 with eight minutes to go, but that was the closest McNeese would get as Georgia State answered with the next nine points to put the game out of reach.
The Panthers shot just 38.7 percent from the field but hit 50 percent in the second half and went 18-for-19 from the free throw line. GSU outrebounded the Cowboys, 48-33.
Georgia State's 94.7 free throw percentage tied for the fifth best single-game mark in school history.
"From the very first practice that we had, I talked about us needing to hit free throws," commented Hunter. "We were the worst free throw shooting team in the country last year and I guaranteed that it would not happen again this year. We have put a lot of time and energy into free throw shooting in practice and tonight it paid dividends."
After a back-and-forth first half in which neither team reached 35 percent shooting from the field, the Panthers took a 24-22 lead into the locker room, thanks to a three-pointer by Rashaad Richardson with 25 seconds left.
Mitchell and Patrick Richard led McNeese State with 10 points each.
Georgia State will return to the court on Tuesday, facing former conference foe Samford in Birmingham, Ala. Tip is set for 8 p.m. ET and can be heard live on WRAS-FM 88.5.