What has already been a trying season for Georgia State took a turn for the heartbreaking when a Justin Forrest turnaround jumper with 1 second left in the game gave Appalachian State a 61-60 win in the Sports Arena Thursday night. A Justin Roberts contested layup at the other had given the Panthers a 60-59 lead with 14 seconds to go, but Forrest made just his second made field goal of the night count when he hit the game-winner with the hands of both Eliel Nsoseme and Crey Allen in his face. When an Allen fullcourt heave at the buzzer bounced off the back rim, it meant a fourth loss in a row for Georgia State and a 6-8 record on the year.
The Mountaineers led for much of the game and held a double-digit lead deep into the second half, but a frantic Georgia State 12-0 run tied the game at 55 with 3:38 to go. A pair of Adrian Delph free throws restored App’s lead to 2, but a Justin Roberts three-pointer with 1 minute exactly gave the Panthers’ their first lead since 13-12 in the first half, 58-57. A Kane Williams steal gave the Panthers possession nursing that one-point lead with 32 seconds to play, but Forrest made all the plays for App State late, getting a steal on the ensuing inbounds and hitting two free throws to give the Mountaineers a 59-58 lead in a sequence that set up the late drama.
Georgia State head coach Rob Lanier was happy with the fight the team showed even in defeat. He said, “We found ourselves with our back against the wall at various times during the game and we found a way to give ourselves an opportunity to win.” Coach Lanier went on, “I was really proud of the guys, the way we fought back, took the lead, lost the lead, took it back, and [Justin] Forrest made a heck of a shot to win the game.”
App’s Adrian Delph led all scorers with 29 points on 11-18 shooting, making 5 of his 10 attempted threes. Corey Allen was Georgia State’s top scorer with 17 and Justin Roberts joined him in double digits with 13. It was a poor shooting night for the Panthers, managing just 38% from the floor and 24% (6-25) from 3. They outrebounded the Mountaineers 26-13 and held them to 31% (8-26) shooting in the second half, but leaving too many points on the court came back to bite Georgia State even with the late-game heroics.
Defense was more of an issue in the first half, as the Panthers didn’t have an answer defensively to stop Delph. The senior from Gastonia, NC, the team’s leading scorer and reigning Sun Belt Player of the Week, surpassed his season average in points per game (16.5) coming in with 19 in the first 20 minutes alone. After making 5 of their first 6 shots and taking an early 13-7 lead, Georgia State allowed a Delph-driven 16-0 run that shot the Mountaineers into a double-digit lead, 23-13 with 9:44 to go until halftime. The Panthers cut it as close as 31-27 on an Evan Johnson three with 2:45 left in the half, but App scored the final four points of the half to take an eight-point lead into the break.
Coach Lanier acknowledged how tough a loss this was, saying, “I really hate it for our guys.” But he preached the importance of moving forward and not letting the loss affect their performance in the second game they play this week, saying, “Now we’ve got to be tough enough to turn the page and have enough energy to go and try and get the next one.”
This is the Panthers’ first four-game losing streak since February 6-18, 2016, and their 0-3 record in conference is the program’s worst start to conference play as a member of the Sun Belt. The team will look to bounce back and reset the mojo of what’s been a disappointing season when they host Coastal Carolina Saturday afternoon at 2pm Eastern.