Georgia state coach Rob Lanier (third from left) looks on. Photo by Rich von Biberstein
Photo: Rich von Biberstein
Photo: Rich von Biberstein

Georgia State must win rivalry game to keep season alive

The third renewal of the rivalry between Georgia State and Georgia Southern carries added importance. 

The loser of Wednesday’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament quarterfinal at Georgia State (7 p.m., ESPN-Plus) will have their season come to an end. The winner advances to play regular-season champion Little Rock in the semifinals Saturday in New Orleans. 

“We get a home game, and the guys are excited about that,” Georgia State coach Rob Lanier said. “It’s a great opportunity for us.”

No. 4-seeded Georgia State (19-12) and No. 5-seeded Georgia Southern (19-13) split their regular-season meetings. Georgia State won 82-77 in Statesboro on Jan. 25 and Georgia Southern won 79-70 in Atlanta on Feb. 28. This is the third time in five seasons the rivals have met in the conference tournament, with Georgia State winning both. 

Georgia State’s loss to Georgia Southern was notable because of the lack of energy shown on the court. It necessitated the most intense practice of the season and resulted in a win over Little Rock in the season finale. 

“It was good to feel like our old selves again, especially right before we get to the tournament,” senior Damon Wilson said. 

Wilson is one of four Panthers in double figures; he averages 11.2 points and 4.9 rebounds. Junior Kane Williams, voted second-team all-conference, leads the team with 14.6 points and 4.4 assists. Corey Allen averages 13.7 points and Justin Roberts, a third-team all-conference pick, averages 13.5 points. 

Georgia Southern has a pair of all-conference players in Quan Jackson (second team) and Ike Smith (third team). Smith leads the team in scoring (14.1 points) and averages 5.5 rebounds. Jackson averages 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. Isaiah Crawley (13.3 points) and Elijah McCadden (10.7 points) also average double figures. 

Georgia Southern had to defeat Louisiana-Lafayette on Monday to reach the quarterfinals. The Eagles were in big trouble, going scoreless for the first 6:28 of the second half and trailing by 16 in the second half and by 10 with 6:44 left, before coming back for an 82-81 win. 

The other quarterfinal game has No. 6-seed Appalachian State at No. 3 Texas State, with the winner advancing to play No. 2-seed South Alabama. 

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