Panthers Outlast Eagles, win 79-75
Justin Roberts dribbles in the 2019 home game vs. Georgia Southern. Photo: Jordan Crawford of Thersdaynight.com
The Georgia State Panthers (9-5, 3-4 in Sun Belt) came from behind to defeat the Georgia Southern Eagles (12-10, 6-7 in Sun Belt) winning 79-75 at home. Down 1 point with 1:34 remaining in the game, the Panthers used a 10-5 run sparked by plenty of free throws to outlast their rivals in game one of their midweek and weekend series against the Eagles. Jalen Thomas got things started with a quick jumper after a scramble for the loose ball giving Georgia State a 71-70 lead. Georgia Southern’s Zack Bryant responded with a layup of his own which would give the Eagles a 1 point advantage with under a minute to play. Justin Roberts’ baseline jumper would retake the lead for the Panthers, and after a few Georgia State free throws the game would end on a missed 3-point attempt by the Eagles.
The Panthers had four of their five starters score in double figures. Justin Roberts had a game-high 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting including 2 made 3-pointers. Corey Allen broke out of his shooting slump, adding 19 points and 7 rebounds. Elil Nsoseme secured his 4th double-double of the season, pairing 12 rebounds with 14 points. Kane Williams finished with 13 points on the evening. The Panthers struggled shooting from distance early in the game, going 2 for 8 from beyond the arc in the first half. They shot 4-of-11 in the second half, with Roberts and Allen each hitting a pair of 3’s. Georgia State shot well from the charity stripe, hitting 17 of their 22 free throw attempts.
Zack Bryant led the way for Georgia Southern. The senior guard had 21 points, 3 rebounds and a block in the losing effort. Gedi Juozapaitis added 17 points including 5 made 3-pointers on 8 attempts. Eric Boone and Kamari Brown added 11 and 8 respectively. The Eagles started hot from 3-point land, opening the game 4 -of- 5 from distance. They would cool off however and finished the game 11 for 27.
The Eagles began the game shooting well from distance, but the Panthers kept the score close by dominating the points in the paint battle. Nsoseme led the Panthers at the break with 12 points, missing only 1 basket in the half. The Panthers forced 6 Eagles’ turnovers and outrebounded Georgia Southern 19 to 15 in the half. Despite hitting 6 more 3-pointers than Georgia State, Georgia Southern had a 4 point halftime lead. It could have been smaller, but an errant Kane Williams pass with 0:13 remaining led to an easy Bryant score just before the half.
When asked about the Eagles’ 3-point shooting after the game, Georgia State Head Coach Rob Lanier said, “I loved the fact that they came out on fire and we were right there. They did shoot it well as the game went on but I didn’t feel like they were going to make 30 threes… The fact that we took that early blow and stayed in the game.. had taken the lead at one point, we were right there….the fact that they were on fire, they came to play, they are a competitive group, I was encouraged by the way the game started because it showed that we could take a bit of a punch.”
Coach Lanier was also effusive in his praise for Thomas, saying, “we challenged Jalen at halftime…played with more spirit and effort. I think highly of Jalen. I just need him to turn his motor up and play at a harder level. When he does that I think he has a chance to be a special player”.
These two teams will meet again Saturday in Statesboro for the second game in their 2-game set. Tip off from Hanner Fieldhouse is set for 3pm EDT and can be found on ESPN+.