Panthers Roll to 97-37 Win in Season Opener

Justin Roberts moves the ball up the court during a 2020 contest versus Georgia Southern. Photo: Jordan Crawford for

Georgia State (1-0) overmatched NAIA Brewton-Parker (1-7) from the start, forcing 31 turnovers and holding the Barons to 26% from the floor to notch an emphatic 97-37 win in their opener of the 2021/22 season. The Panthers started on a 9-0 run and led by 34 at the break, leading by as much as 62 in the second half before a Hunter Jackson with 14 seconds left to cut to the final 60-point margin. This marks three wins in the team’s three season openers under head coach Rob Lanier for Georgia State, after beating this same Brewton-Parker team 104-35 in his first regular season game in charge in 2019 and winning in 4 OTs last November at Georgia Tech to start the season.

Ten Panthers saw their names on the scoresheet, led by Corey Allen’s 20 and Justin Roberts’ 19. Nelson Phillips added 15 to go with 3 rebounds and 5 steals while Kane Williams led the team with 7 assists and also scored 11. Georgia State got modest efforts offensively from their frontcourt, as Ja’Heim Hudson scored 9 and Jalen Thomas had 8 points on 4-of-7 shooting. The team as a whole was locked in from the charity stripe, shooting 20-23 on the night on free throws. In one trouble spot for the Panthers, a much smaller Brewton-Parker team fought hard on the glass, getting 15 offensive rebounds and only losing 42-37 in the total margin.

With a made layup with 8:07 to go in the 1st half, Kane Williams tied Leonard Mendez for 9th all-time in career points at Georgia State with 1,238. He didn’t score for the rest of the night, but Kane’s next point will give him sole ownership of the position on the leaderboard – and he’s just 16 points behind Phillip Luckydo’s career tally of 1,254 in 8th place.

Even with the comfortable win on the scoreboard tonight, Coach Lanier is looking for more improvement in some of the team’s fundamentals, saying, “We anticipate some growing pains with this group, and tonight was an example of some of the areas we need to improve.” He continued, “We need to become more disciplined, and tonight created a lot of situations where we needed to exercise some discipline and we weren’t great in that area.”

Coach Lanier tied this discipline problem into the rebounding effort in the game, saying winning on the glass is about “fight and toughness” as well as good positioning, because “being in position doesn’t guarantee you anything.” He went on, “I think…when you play a smaller group, guards and smaller guys in general, they grow up with this mindset that rebounding is the responsibility of the big guys.” He continued, “But we just don’t have the luxury to play the game like that, and the reality is that the game ain’t played like that at this level, so everybody has to play their part.” He said, “Tonight, we got exposed in that area and it ain’t going to get easier.”

Coach Lanier did highlight the good that he saw from his team as well, highlighting “moments of energy” where “guys were into the game” and stretches with “unselfish play”. He also mentioned that it was good to see players like Justin Roberts (7-11 on FG, 3-5 from 3) have strong shooting performances after struggling to get their rhythm going in the run-up to the season.

A Roberts steal and Corey Allen fastbreak layup off of Brewton-Parker’s opening possession opened the scoring and set the tone for what was going to be a very lopsided contest. Still, Georgia State had to overcome a three-and-a-half minute scoring slump in the middle of the half and a slow start shooting the basketball overall, but they held a comfortable double-digit lead for much of the half and finished on a 20-1 run over the final 7:38 of the half to take a 44-10 lead into the locker room. Brewton-Parker was held to 4-of-29 (14%) shooting and made just 1-of-8 three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes.

On the continued absence of forward Eliel Nsoseme through injury, which tonight left what he called “an energy deficit” at times on the court, Coach Lanier mentioned that a big challenge for the team this season was going to be responding to adversity and that this was just part of that growing experience. He said he was “excited” to see how they respond and also to see how the team looks when Nsoseme returns to the lineup, but cautioned there may be some “dark days” in the meantime. He said, “I think the likelihood is we’re going to have some growing pains in his absence, but I think it could help us attack our greatest weakness.”

Georgia State is back in action Friday afternoon when they host Northeastern of the CAA. Tip-off from the Sports Arena is at 1pm Eastern and the game can be seen on ESPN+.

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