Panthers Go Up Big Early, Hang On to Win Sun Belt East
Kane Williams dribbles the ball up the court in a home game during the 2019-2020 season. Photo: Jordan Crawford for THERSdayNight.com
For the second day in a row, Georgia State (14-5, 8-4 in Sun Belt) used a blistering offensive pace and held off a late South Alabama (16-10, 10-7 in Sun Belt) run to win 82-73 en route to their 6th straight win and clinch the Sun Belt East Division title. The second half felt closer than the final score would indicate as the Jaguars cut a 19-point Georgia State lead down to seven with a minute left. Georgia State wouldn’t falter as Corey Allen hit 4 straight free throws to keep the Jaguars at bay and keep the game out of their reach.
The Panthers got contributions from a host of players, as all 5 starters scored in double figures. Jalen Thomas and Justin Roberts led the way both scoring 16 points, with Thomas securing his 1st career double-double – bringing down 12 rebounds. Corey Allen added 15 points on 3-for-8 shooting from downtown. Kane Williams scored 13 points, and Eliel Nsoseme was one rebound away from another double-double as he finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds.
South Alabama got 30 points from fifth-year senior John Pettway, who was one of three Jaguars to finish in double figures. Jamal West had 14 points and 5 rebounds and senior Michael Flowers added 12 points and 5 assists in the loss. South Alabama was better in the second half after shooting only 17% from distance in the first half and 38% from the floor. The Jaguars improved those numbers in the second half to 30% and 50% respectively.
The Panthers started the game off strong, showing no signs of having played a shootout with the Jaguars less than 24 hours prior. Allen and Nsoseme hit two quick shots to give the Panthers the early 4-0 lead, and Georgia State would find themselves up 10-4 after the opening five minutes. South Alabama would punch back and tie the game at 17 five minutes later, led by Pettway and a few Georgia State turnovers. From then on, the Panthers would go on a 23-14 run to close the half with Thomas hitting a slew of his free throw line jumpers. Georgia State went into halftime with an 11-point lead – despite only hitting two three-pointers and taking only three free throws in the entire first half.
With this win, the Panthers clinch a 1-seed and a first-round bye in the Sun Belt tournament, which starts on March 5th. Their potential opponents will be announced in the coming days.