Strong Defensive Effort Sees Panthers Past App State, 76-65
Georgia State (17-9, 10-5 in Sun Belt) got off to a running start, never trailed and overcame some slow second-half stretches to outlast Appalachian State (14-12, 8-7 in Sun Belt) 76-65 and put together their second straight win. The Mountaineers struggled to shoot all night, finishing with a shooting percentage of 33% as a team and making just 5 of 21 threes. Justin Roberts led the Panthers with 17 points, 5-of-7 from the floor – 5-of-6 from 3 – and Nelson Phillips provided strong minutes off the bench, scoring 16 in 21 minutes on a 5-of-8 shooting night and forcing two steals. Freshman Kendall Lewis – a Snellville, GA native – had a career-high 24 points on his homecoming to pace the Mountaineers. App State’s top scorer Justin Forrest struggled from the floor all night, scoring just 11 points (7 points below his season average) on 3-of-19 shooting.
Coming into a game against “a good team playing very well”, coach Rob Lanier said he emphasized discipline and playing hard coming into this matchup, saying, “In each game, which team is going to play the hardest the longest? And I thought, tonight, we did that.” The Panthers did just that, playing selfless basketball for large stretches of the game – with 17 of the 26 made baskets coming on assists. They also out-rebounded Appalachian State, who came into tonight’s game third in the Sun Belt in rebounding margin, 41-29.
The Panthers’ defense was smothering from the opening tip, forcing the Mountaineers to miss all of their first eight shots – and jumping out to an early 9-0 lead. The swarming defense continued for Georgia State and they found their shooting stroke, hitting 7 of 14 from deep in the first 20 minutes and taking their largest lead at 25-5 with 8:46 left to go in the half. The Mountaineers, though, found their footing in the game and put together their best basketball of the half down the stretch, cutting it back to as close as 12 points before settling for a 41-26 deficit heading into the break.
In the second half, App State continued to pour the pressure on, forcing turnovers and getting to the foul line with an aggressive offensive attack spearheaded by Forrest and O’Showen Williams, and they were able to cut the deficit back to single digits on multiple occasions. The closest the Mountaineers got was 56-49 on a Lewis layup, but Roberts answered for Georgia State with one of his five three-pointers and freshman Jalen Thomas got an offensive putback the next possession to push the lead back out to 12 and clutch late three-point shooting from Roberts, Nelson Phillips and Damon Wilson saw the Panthers to the finish line.
Georgia State is back in action at the Sports Arena on Saturday, hosting the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Tipoff is at 2pm EST.