Panthers Triumph in Conference Opener, Beat UTA 83-77
Georgia State (7-3, 1-0 in Sun Belt) rode strong second halves from Damon Wilson and Kane Williams to overcome a slow shooting night and win their conference opener 83-77 over the UTA Mavericks (4-8, 0-1 in Sun Belt). Coach Rob Lanier was happy for the home conference win but called it a “frustrating game,” crediting UTA’s defensive work for challenging the Panthers offensively. He added that the victory “was a byproduct of some grit [Georgia State] showed as a team” and that “for [Georgia State] to miss 10 free throws and score 83 points in a game where [they] weren’t really smooth offensively is encouraging.”
The Panthers used an 8-0 run to push the lead to 62-52 with 7:23 left, withstanding a late surge from the Mavericks and closing out from the free throw line to hold on for their sixth consecutive win. Wilson led the Panthers with 22 points on 7-14 shooting and 6-8 from the charity stripe – tying his career-high in points – while Williams added 17 points, a career-high 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Freshman big Jalen Thomas had a career-high 11 points on 4-7 shooting. For the Mavericks, David Azore led the way with a game-high 23 points.
Both teams were slow out of the gate until the Panthers used strong halfcourt defense to force turnovers and run in transition. UTA head coach Chris Ogden was forced to call a timeout with 10:09 left in the first half after a Damon Wilson layup made it a 20-8 Georgia State lead. UTA clamped down on the defensive end and didn’t turn it over for the last 9:02 of the half, chipping away at the Panthers’ lead – which got as high as 13 – to take a 35-33 lead into the locker room.
The second half started out back-and-forth, the teams trading the lead until Georgia State took the lead 48-47 – ultimately for good – on a Kane Williams free throw with over 11 minutes left. The Panthers’ strong defensive effort, led by Justin Roberts’ five steals, forced empty possessions and led to easy baskets at the other end, ballooning the lead up to double digits. The Mavericks were able to fight back to a 6-point deficit with the ball with 12 seconds left, but Brian Warren’s three-pointer to cut it to a one-score banged off the rim and the Panthers came down with the rebound, ending the late upset charge.
Georgia State is right back at it on Saturday, as they host the Bobcats of Texas State. Tip-off from the Sports Arena is at 1pm EST.