Similar problems that have haunted Georgia State all season reared their ugly head tonight, as poor shooting and lapses in decision-making cost them in a 67-63 loss to Troy which snapped a two-game winning streak. The Panthers managed to erase an 8-point Trojans halftime lead, taking their first lead since 7:46 left in the first half when a Corey Allen jumper made it 56-54 with 5:19 remaining in the game. That jumper was the end of a 6-0 one spurned on in part by a flagrant 2 foul on Troy’s Rifen Miguel which saw him ejected from the game. But after a Kieffer Punter three-pointer with 4:19 on the clock restored Troy’s lead, they never trailed again as Georgia State made just 2 of 10 attempted shots over the game’s final 4 minutes.
Both teams struggled offensively in the second half, but Troy pulled out the win in large part to their work at the free throw line. Despite making just 6 of 23 shots from the floor in the final 20 minutes, the Trojans went to the line 24 times and made 20 of them. This was part of a stellar 28-36 night from the charity stripe. By contrast, Georgia State made just 12 of 20 second-half free throws and made just 15 of 27 overall.
Troy also did a better job of making their turnovers count. They committed 22 themselves but forced 14 Panther turnovers, and they were barely edged out in the points-off-turnover category, 22-20 in favor of GSU. Justin Roberts was Georgia State’s leading scorer with 17, which was the joint-game high shared by Troy’s Efe Odigie.
Georgia State head coach Rob Lanier called this loss “particularly disappointing” because he felt the team had wasted a good second-half performance defensively which gave them a chance to win late. What hurt them, Coach Lanier said, was “some critical turnovers by some guys that we rely on, who made some really tough decisions late in the game.” He also didn’t think the preparation was as good as it needed to be leading up to the game, saying, “I thought we lost the game on Tuesday. Our approach on the practice floor wasn’t good enough, mature enough.”
That lack of focus came back to bite the Panthers at a key juncture of the game. Down 61-60 with over a minute left, coming out of a timeout, the Panthers almost committed a five-second violation on the inbound before the eventual cross-court inbound pass nearly resulted in a turnover. After all that, Corey Allen forced a low-post shot up in the middle of a host of Troy bodies and had it blocked. Troy got the rebound and another late-game chance went begging. Coach Lanier said that sequence came down to “one of [the team’s] key guys just walking out of a timeout and not knowing what he was doing.” He called it “poor execution at a critical time of the game” and added, “We had a fair amount of that stuff over the course of the game.”
It was a bad weather Thursday in Atlanta and Georgia State’s first-half performance did not lift spirits or fortunes. They missed all of their first five shots on offense, including three at point-blank range layups at the rim, and seven of their first ten. Troy had a similarly slow start to affairs, missing seven of their first 11 attempts from the floor, and neither team looked poised to take advantage. But the Trojans were the team who turned it on down the stretch, shooting 8-12 from the floor and 2-3 from 3 over the final ten minutes of the first half.
A Christian Turner layup with 7:16 to go in the period gave them a lead they wouldn’t relent, a lead that expanded to as high as 11 on an Efe Odigie field goal in the final five seconds. Only a Corey Allen three-pointer that banked in as time expired was able to reset the momentum which had been squarely in Troy’s corner. The Panthers still had a mountain to climb to keep their winning streak going, in the form of a 34-26 halftime deficit.
The preseason Sun Belt favorite Panthers now sit at 8-10 and 2-5 in Sun Belt play. They’ll have to bounce back from a fourth home defeat this season, which is the most in a single season since 2012-13, when South Alabama comes to the Sports Arena Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is at 2pm Eastern and the game can be seen on ESPN+.