MONROE, LA – Georgia State women’s basketball rebounded from a 19-9 first quarter deficit to upend the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, 56-41.
The victory evens the Panthers’ Sun Belt record at 2-2 and 8-7 overall, while the Warhawks drop to 1-3 in the conference and have a season record of 7-8.
Those eight wins represent a milestone for the Panthers, as they have equaled their win total from last season. And since the halfway point in the regular season has been reached, there is plenty left to be done.
There was plenty to be done after that first quarter in Fant-Ewing Coliseum in Monroe. Georgia State tied Louisiana-Monroe at the half at 26. Junior guard Madison Ervin knocked down a trio of three-pointers to key the rally. Ervin, in her first year in Atlanta, had another three in the third and finished with 12. That tied her season high notched during a home loss to Georgia Tech.
The squads traded baskets to start the third, then the Panthers removed all doubt by going on a 18-0 run. A three-pointer by Whitney Goins stopped the rally, but Georgia State held a 14-point lead, 46-32, entering the final frame. Georgia State’s defense stepped to the fore, keeping the Warhawks at bay during the home stretch.
“We are consistently seeing growth daily,” said Georgia State assistant coach Tiffany Morton following the win. “We focused on making the right passes, plays and playing together as a unit. Today we had balanced scoring and consistency on defense.”
Allison Johnson, a redshirt senior from Norcross, led the Panthers with 15 points, while Louisiana-Monroe’s Arsula Clark was game high scorer with 16. Clark, a sophomore from Douglasville, had ten in the first as the Warhawks staked out their lead. She fouled out halfway through the final quarter, sealing ULM’s fate.
Walnatia Wright led Georgia State in rebounding with 10. The Sun Belt’s third-leading rebounder was a point away from yet another double-double. Both Johnson and Wright sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Both have proved vital as the Panthers now have legitimate threats in the post. That was something lacking during last year’s 8-22 season.
Another thing lacking last year was Jada Lewis. The sophomore sat out last season with a foot injury and took a medical injury. She was the Sun Belt freshman of the year in 2016-17 but did not get a mention on any of the preseason All-Conference teams. Opponents now remember. She came into the Monroe game third in the conference in points and first in minutes played. She put 22 on Louisiana earlier in the week not to mention a career-high 30 against North Carolina Central back in December. She recently passed the 600 total point barrier in her career.
Another aspect is turnovers have come way down. The Panthers committed twelve in the win and have consistently been in the teens. Another factor has been a defense that has not kept away from fouling. In a win over UT-Arlington, Georgia State only allowed the Mavericks two foul shots, and those came courtesy of a technical. The Warhawks went just four of seven on Saturday.
New coach Gene Hill has stressed the importance of quality defense while moving the ball around. However, the one troubling aspect is that the Panthers still have not played a complete forty-minute game. There have been times when the opponent goes off on an uncontested run, forcing Georgia State to play catch-up. For Instance, Louisiana-Monroe took a 13-4 run for that ten-point lead. Thursday, Louisiana scored the first 12 points. Georgia State would eventually tie but the Cajuns prevailed 57-54 when Kierra Henry just missed a game-tying bucket.
Ball distribution continues to be an issue, as Georgia State is at the bottom of the conference in assists per game.
It is early in the Sun Belt season. Troy is the only unbeaten team, while Coastal Carolina and Georgia Southern are winless. The new conference tourney format has the bottom two teams not getting in, while the ten and nine seeds have play-in games at seven and eight. Those games are at school site on Monday. The winners go to New Orleans for a first-round game on Wednesday.
Georgia State is now in the six-to-eight range. Other teams have film and will try to counter the Panthers. For instance, Louisiana-Monroe held Lewis to just two points and scoreless from the field. But that allowed Ervin to roam free and hit outside jumpers. Wright, Johnson, and Shaq Miller-McCray have been able to do well underneath. The key is who will play well if one of those has an off night. KK Williams added an outside jumper to her repertoire, and Henry is never afraid to drive inside and draw the foul.
There is no question that things are different. The Panthers equaled last season’s output. Since returning to the Sun Belt, they have not won a conference tourney game. Success there will tell us if that change will last.

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