Georgia State came back from a 15-point deficit and held a lead in the second half all the way to the final 10 seconds, but Georgia Tech was able to force overtime and ultimately prevailed 72-62 in the extra period to claim basketball supremacy in the city of Atlanta for this season. A pair of Jordan Usher free throws tied the game at 59 with 10.4 seconds remaining in regulation and a Corey Allen three-pointer at the buzzer didn’t fall for the Panthers. In the overtime period, the Yellow Jackets outscored Georgia State by a margin of 13-3 and were able to avoid a second straight overtime loss in McCamish Pavilion to their city rivals, after the Panthers’ 4OT 123-120 win to open last season. These two teams will face off a third straight year when the Yellow Jackets head to the new Convocation Center in the 2022/23 season.
After trailing by as much as 40-25 in the first 20 minutes, the Panthers scored the final eight points of the first half and kept that momentum going in the second half with tough defense, forcing the Yellow Jackets into multiple 4+ minute stretches without scoring. A Corey Allen jumper with 10:53 left gave Georgia State their first lead of the evening, 47-46. The Panthers extended their lead to a game-high 6 on a pair of Kane Williams free throws with 7:59 remaining but missed the front end of multiple one-and-ones later in the half to allow Tech to stay alive in the game and the Jackets – led by Jordan Usher’s game-high 30, which included a 9 of 10 performance from the charity stripe – made enough shots down the stretch to force the extra period. And 14 straight misses from the floor between the late second half and the overtime period doomed the Panthers to a loss in their final non-conference game in 2021.
Georgia State struggled as a whole shooting, finishing with just a 28% FG percentage. They gave themselves a chance with a 15 of 19 free throw shooting night and forcing 23 Yellow Jacket turnovers. By contrast, the veteran guard-laden Panthers had just 11 turnovers through two 20-minute halves and 5 minutes of overtime. Corey Allen led the team with 15 points, including four made three-pointers. Kane Williams scored 13, making 9 of 9 free throws on the night.
Georgia Tech managed just a 39% shooting night themselves but made up for it by making 9 of 22 attempted threes and 19 of 24 free throws. The Jackets overcame a poor shooting performance by top scorer Michael Devoe. The Panthers held the senior guard, who shot 2 of 11 and 1 of 8 from 3, 14 points below his season average of 22.4 ppg. But fellow senior Jordan Usher saved the day with his career-high 30 points and clutch shooting late in the game. The Yellow Jackets were without guards Dallan Coleman and Bubba Parham due to entering Covid health and safety protocols. Coleman had appeared in all of Georgia Tech’s previous 10 games, averaging 6.6 points per game, while Parham has yet to appear for the Yellow Jackets in 2021/22 but averaged 6.7 ppg and 1 steal a game last season.
On the defensive turnaround that shifted the game in the Panthers’ favor, Georgia State head coach Rob Lanier said, “We haven’t been a great defensive team this year, we know we got to get better, and I think the second half, we were much better than we really had been, really, all year.” He added, “It’s a good sign”, and while he lamented that the team was due to go on Christmas break without an immediate chance to follow the performance up, he called tonight’s effort “a lot to build on”.
It was all offense early on, as Georgia State hit 4 of their first 5 shots and Georgia Tech didn’t miss any of their first 6 shots from the floor. But from that point, the Panthers missed their next six shots over a 5-minute scoreless stretch while the Yellow Jackets kept their fast offensive start going. A Jordan Usher jumper with 11:19 to go in the first half made it 8 of 11 made shots and gave Georgia Tech a 19-11 lead. Despite creating 9 first-half turnovers, Georgia State came up empty on multiple fastbreak opportunities and couldn’t find their shooting stroke and the Jackets made them pay. A Khalid Moore layup with 5:33 until the break gave Tech their first double-digit lead, 29-18. That lead got as large as 15 on two occasions, but the Panthers finished the half on an 8-0 run to trail by just 7 at the break. A Corey Allen three-pointer at the buzzer, his third of the half, needed a generous bounce off the rim to drop through the net, but it was a single-digit deficit once more when it did.
When asked if the team who came out and competed tonight was more of the team Georgia State expects to be heading into conference play, Coach Lanier said, “I think it’s a move in the right direction,” adding, “I don’t think that was our best, but it’s the best we’ve been so far.” He went on, “Our journey has taken us on a little bit of a winding road, but I think we’re on the right path.”
That journey will continue with a two-leg trip to Arkansas which starts off Sun Belt play for the Panthers. The team finishes up their non-conference slate with a record of 6-5 and will begin the quest for another Sun Belt title in Jonesboro, facing the Red Wolves of Arkansas State on December 30. Tipoff at the First National Bank Arena will be at 8pm Eastern.