Panthers Win Battle of Atlanta in 4OT Thriller

Panthers Win Battle of Atlanta in 4OT Thriller

Photo Credit: Curtis Compton/AJC

Justin Roberts and Kane Williams embrace at midcourt following the historic victory over Georgia Tech early Thursday morning.

Photo: Curtis Compton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution –

It took the equivalent of one and a half basketball games, but after four overtimes, Georgia State (1-0) outlasted Georgia Tech (0-1) 123-120 for their first win over their crosstown rival since 1976 and their first-ever win over an ACC opponent. In what was Georgia State’s first 3OT and 4OT game, Justin Roberts led a quartet of Panthers who scored 20 or more (a feat achieved for the first time in school history) with 26 points. In his Georgia State debut, Cincinnati transfer Eliel Nsoseme had 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting and added 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. Moses Wright led the way for Georgia Tech with a 31-point, 20-rebound double-double performance. After scoring just 2 in the first half, Yellow Jackets guard Jose Alvarado finished the marathon game with 29 points and 10 rebounds.

On the win, Georgia State head coach Rob Lanier said he was “really proud of [his] group… He added,

A Justin Roberts transition 3-pointer evened the score at 77 with 1:49 left in the game and neither team could unbreak the tie in regulation, sending the game to overtime. After staying deadlocked through three overtimes, superior guard play won out when Roberts, Kane Williams and Corey Allen (who scored 11 of his 22 points in the overtime periods) finally shepherded the Panthers to victory in overtime number four. An Allen layup tied it at 116 with 1:47 left in 4OT, Allen fed Williams for the go-ahead layup with 1:14 to go and Roberts hit two free throws to make it a 121-118 Georgia State lead with just 21 seconds remaining. Down 122-120 after Allen split one of two free throws, the Jackets had one more chance to send this game to a fifth overtime, but Jose Alvarado’s diving layup attempt fell off the rim. JoJo Toppin made one of his two free throws after bringing down the all-important rebound and time ran out on Georgia Tech’s late comeback attempt.

The Jackets rode a 5-for-9 start from the floor, including two made 3-pointers by Devoe, to a 13-5 lead out of the gates and they held a 15-9 lead with 12:13 to go in the half after a Jordan Usher layup. But from that point, the active hands of the Georgia State defense got busy and the baskets started falling. Forcing turnovers (11 committed by the Yellow Jackets in the first 20 minutes) and scoring quickly on the break, the Panthers went on a 17-0 run that was punctuated by a fastbreak layup by freshman Collin Moore that made it 26-15 with 8:01 until halftime. An 8-0 mini-run for Tech briefly cut the Georgia State lead to one possession at 29-26 with just under three minutes to go in the half, but the Panthers clamped down on defense again to close out, allowing no made field goals in the final 2:40, and continued their hot first-half shooting to take a 38-31 lead into the locker room. Eliel Nsoseme led all scorers through the first half with 10 points in his first collegiate action since playing in Cincinnati’s NCAA Tournament loss to Iowa on March 22, 2019.

Nsoseme kept the offensive energy going out of the break, scoring six of Georgia State’s first 13 points in the second half, and the Panthers took a 51-40 lead on an Evan Johnson 3-pointer with 15:37 left. But after being held to 35% shooting in the first 20 minutes, Georgia Tech started to find the net on offense. The Jackets started the half shooting 7-of-12 – and when Bubba Parham hit a jumper, stole the ball off Kane Williams and found Jose Alvarado for a three-pointer, in one sequence, a once-comfortable Georgia State lead was cut to 55-49 with 13:45 left. Tech took advantage of some Georgia State live-ball turnovers to continue to chip away at that lead, eventually knotting the game again at 59 on a Parham triple with 9:34 to go. Later on, deadlocked at 70, a pair of Wright free throws with 4:34 to play gave the Jackets their first lead since being up 15-13 with 10:34 on the clock in the first half. The Panthers hung tight after falling behind for the first time in the second half, and a Michael Devoe circus shot fell to make it a 77-74 game with 1:49 left, Kane Williams quickly got the ball down the court to Justin Roberts for his game-tying 3-pointer. After the teams traded shot clock violations and Georgia Tech missed a potential game winner with the shot clock dead, Alvarado came up with a steal to prevent Georgia State from holding out for the last shot of regulation and to give the Yellow Jackets a second chance at a late win. But Devoe couldn’t get a floater to fall and the game went to overtime.

In the first overtime period, with the game tied at 83 with under 30 seconds to go, Kane Williams drew a charge on Michael Devoe to force a Georgia Tech turnover and gave the Panthers a chance at the last shot. However, Williams’ runner wouldn’t fall and the game went to a second overtime period. In 2OT, a pair of Corey Allen triples got Georgia State out to an early lead – a lead stretched to 96-92 by a pair of Justin Roberts free throws with 1:05 to go in the period. However, the Jackets scored the last four points of the period and a Justin Roberts game-winner rimmed out as time expired. 

In a back-and-forth triple overtime, after two Alvarado technical fouls pushed Georgia Tech’s lead to 107-103 with 1:21 left, the Jackets would be home free the rest of the way if they could make their free throws. However, after a Justin Roberts three cut the deficit to 109-108 with 12 seconds left and Alvarado split his free throws, Collin Moore drew a foul inside the arc with a second remaining. Needing to hit both of his free throws to keep the game alive for Georgia State, the freshman from North Little Rock, AR did exactly that, sending the game to a fourth overtime.

Georgia State plays Toccoa Falls College next on Friday, November 27 inside the friendly confines of the Sports Arena. Tip-off from the Third Floor is at 7pm.

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