Panthers Can’t Overcome First Half Struggles, App State Complete Weekend Sweep
Photo: Jordan Crawford of THERSdayNight.com
After trailing by 11 at halftime, Georgia State (8-4, 2-3 in Sun Belt) cut the deficit to 2 but ultimately came up short at Appalachian State (12-5, 6-2 in Sun Belt), falling 74-61. This marks the first time the Panthers have been swept in a weekend series this conference season. The Mountaineers closed the first half on a 30-10 run and took a 37-26 lead into the locker room. Pressure defense by Georgia State took App State out of their game in the second half and the Panthers opened on a 14-5 run. The Mountaineers’ lead was trimmed down to 42-40 with 12:15 left when Eliel Nsoseme hit a pair of free throws, but that was as close as the Panthers would get. App State scored 17 of the next 23 points to restore their double-digit lead, which they would hold onto for the rest of the game.
Corey Allen led Georgia State with 19 points, while Justin Roberts added 18. Jalen Thomas scored 10 to complete the trio of the Panthers’ double-digit scorers. James Lewis Jr was a force inside for App State, earning a double-double with 22 points and 14 rebounds. Offense was at a premium, as both teams shot just under 41% from the floor. Georgia State particularly struggled from the perimeter, making just three of their 17 attempted three-pointers.
On what he called “a disappointing weekend, to say the least,” Georgia State head coach Rob Lanier gave Appalachian State credit for being “the tougher team” and “the better team.” Coach Lanier continued, “This weekend was a great learning experience about where we are right here, right now, and we got a long way to go… We’re going to take advantage of that lesson and we’re going to learn and grow going forward.”
Georgia State got off to a hot shooting start, making eight of their first nine attempts from the floor. A quick 4 points from Jalen Thomas contributed to the Panthers’ 10-5 lead at the game’s first break and a Corey Allen layup gave them a 16-7 lead with 13:37 left in the half. However, App State scored the next six points to cut the deficit to three, and after a Justin Roberts three-pointer stopped the bleeding for Georgia State, the Mountaineers scored 13 unanswered to take their first lead of the afternoon and grab control of the game. A Michael Almonacy three-pointer with 3:50 until halftime gave App State the first double-digit lead for either team, 32-22. A quartet of free throws by the Panthers made it a 6-point game again with under two minutes to play, but a 5-0 run by the Mountaineers to end the half – punctuated by a three-pointer from way downtown by Justin Forrest as time expired – gave them their largest lead of the first 20 minutes, 37-26, heading into the second half.
Asked about what was missing for Georgia State this weekend, particularly on the defensive end, Coach Lanier said, “I really think it’s just commitment, toughness.” He added, “There’s really no formula, there’s no creative explanation to what you saw the last two days. We just saw a better team outplay an inferior team. We can reach another level, and we intend to do that, but today – and this weekend in general – was a pretty good exhibition of who we are right now.”
The Panthers return home next weekend for a two-game set with South Alabama. Tipoff on Friday, January 29 is at 8:30pm EST and can be viewed nationally on ESPN2.