Western Kentucky was taken behind the woodshed Thursday night.
Visiting Georgia State showed no mercy in a 77-54 stomping of the Hilltoppers at E.A. Diddle Arena – the worst loss at home for WKU since Dec. 22, 2010, when it fell 114-82 to Louisville.
"We got our tails kicked, every way you can get it kicked," WKU coach Ray Harper said. "Their guards dominated the basketball game. Give them credit, they were the better basketball team. They were just better than us. They were quicker than us, they dominated us. It wasn't like we were about ready to make a run at any point in the second half. Their focus was better.
"They came here on a mission, they were 22-for-22 from the (free-throw line). That's how you win on the road. They took care of the basketball better than we did – they're supposed to win. Every player for them whipped whatever player on our team's tail. (Georgia State coach Ron Hunter) whipped my tail – they were better than us. It is what it is."
Georgia State (10-6, 3-0 Sun Belt Conference) shot 48.1 percent from the floor and its 22-for-22 performance from the line was a Diddle Arena record. More importantly, the Panthers played with a confidence and swagger from the outset.
The 23-point victory was also the most by any conference foe in Diddle Arena since a 94-61 shellacking by Louisiana Tech on Feb. 15, 1997.
"They're better than us. They out-toughed us, did everything they were supposed to do," WKU senior guard Brandon Harris said. "They were supposed to win, they deserved to win tonight."
"I guess we just weren't ready and they were tougher. You saw, they beat us to loose balls – we got out-toughed."
Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow scored all of his 11 points in the second half, Elizabethtown High School product Curtis Washington had 16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks, Manny Atkins led all scorers with 18, Devonta White scored 13 and R.J. Hunter added 12.
Georgia State also outscored the Hilltoppers 36-10 in the paint and WKU shot a dismal 28.6 percent. They also turned the ball over 16 times.
"We had some really good looks at time, and then as the game – in the second half we started gambling a little bit," Harper said. "We didn't do a very good job with our ball-screen defense and then we started shooting the ball too quick, 'Let's try to get it back, let's try to get it back.' We continued to miss wide-open rim shots.
"And 32 (3-point attempts) is entirely too many and we talked about, you can't settle against this zone. If you'll move the basketball and get some cutters you'll get some good stuff. I thought at times we did that, but we didn't finish when we did."
The Tops hung around for the first 20 minutes, although that turned out to be little consolation.
Despite quickly falling into a 7-2 hole to start after an Atkins 3 from the left corner, Washington's baby hook in the lane and Hunter layup on the fastbreak, Harris gave WKU a spark off the bench by hitting a 3 to make it 9-7 and his efforts to save a ball from going out of bounds on the baseline back to Aleksej Rostov for a layup tied the game at 9-9 just more than five minutes in.
After trading baskets for the next 3 1/2 minutes, Georgia State took control with five straight from Atkins to go up 20-15. Another Atkins bucket pushed the Panthers' lead to 24-17 and forced a WKU timeout.
The Hilltoppers got within 28-27 after consecutive 3s from Harris, T.J. Price and Chris Harrison-Docks, but the Panthers responded with a pair of White free throws, a two-handed dunk from Washington and an uncontested jumper in the lane by Markus Crider to make it 34-27.
A Price jumper from the left elbow was all WKU could muster the rest of the way, settling for a five-point deficit at the break.
Georgia State came out of the locker room where it left off, scoring the first 15 points of the half with a Washington dunk and soft right hook and a White jumper from the free-throw line to go up 40-29.
Harrow hit a long pull-up from the left wing, White scored another jumper from the charity stripe and Harrow completed a tough three-point play to extend it to 47-29. A final hook from Washington on the right side of the lane capped the run at 49-29.
A Price 3 with 13:25 left in the game gave WKU its first points of the half, but it got worse for the Tops before it got better.
Harrow somehow managed a winding, spinning drive along the baseline that ended with a layup at 53-32 and then White finished yet another three-point play to give the Panthers a 56-32 advantage.
WKU never recovered.
"You lose basketball games," Harris said. "We got another one next Thursday and this one's behind us. We'll come out, get ready this week, play tougher than we did next Thursday."
George Fant pulled down 13 rebounds for WKU, but scored just two points. The Hilltoppers have the week off before hosting Arkansas-Little Rock (8-7, 3-0 SBC) next Thursday.
— Follow Western Kentucky University men's basketball beat reporter Chad Bishop on Twitter at twitter.comMrChadBishop or visit bgdailynews.com.