Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Even in defeat, Georgia State was a winner

The Hunters, father and son. (AP photo/Chris O'Meara)

Jacksonville, Fla. -- Georgia State lost to Xavier 75-67 but won the week. The Panthers proved they belonged in this Big Dance, and if the Musketeers had been even slightly imprecise Saturday, they might have gone the way of Baylor. That Georgia State lost by eight to an opponent that made 67.6 percent of its shots tells us that this was far more than your garden-variety 14th seed.

When it was done, both Hunters wept. Father and son, together on the dais before the assembled media, both covering their faces, the son using a towel, the dad just his hands -- and somehow it wasn't a sad moment. It was one of pride and joy and, yes, love.

"I love this kid, man" coach Ron Hunter had said, putting his hand on his son's shoulder. "I love you."

Said R.J. Hunter, who scored 20 points in what might have been his final collegiate game: "I told the guys in the locker room, 'If you're crying, they should be tears of joy. We changed the culture of Georgia State."

True. Four days ago, did anyone in Tucson or Tucumcari or Tehachapi or Tonopah -- here we bow to Lowell George and Little Feat -- know the slightest thing about Georgia State University? But now the masses have memories of Ron Hunter and his rolling chair and R.J. and his hero shot and the little team from the Sun Belt that played big against opponents from the Big 12 and Big East.

"It's bittersweet right now," R.J. said, but it was clearly more sweet than bitter. What Georgia State did in three days in North Florida will resonate for decades.

Later, the younger Hunter was asked, if he lives to be 100, how much of this week he'll remember. "Every minute," he said, and he smiled a winner's smile.

The Georgia State-Xavier game column can be found here.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.