Georgia State wins big at home in Sun Belt play

Georgia State coach Rob Lanier shouts instructions in the second half during a Sun Belt Conference college basketball game in Atlanta on Saturday, January 11, 2020. Georgia State won 84-62 over UL Monroe. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia State’s Nelson Phillips isn’t afraid to step up and make the big play at the big moment.

The athletic sophomore from Warner Robins did it again Saturday and helped Georgia State to a 92-80 win over Coastal Carolina at the GSU Sports Arena.

When the Chanticleers were trying to whittle away at Georgia State’s once 16-point lead, Phillips was there with an answer. With 5:26 left, Phillips took a pass from Corey Allen into the left corner and buried a 3. After Coastal Carolina scored, he stood in the same spot, Allen found him again and Phillips knocked down another. The lead was back to 12, and the lead never dipped below 10.

“Nelson’s a talented guy,” Georgia State coach Rob Lanier said. “So I’m not surprised when he plays well. Ultimately, at his best, the game is going to slow down for Nelson, and he’s not going to rely exclusively on his athleticism and instincts, and he’s going to grow in terms of his mental scope of the game.”

Phillips scored 20 points and was one of four players in double figures. Senior Damon Wilson, a steady influence on the court when things got dicey, scored 20 points, Justin Roberts added 17 points and six assists and Kane Williams had 15 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

Georgia State (18-9, 11-5 Sun Belt) improved its home record to 11-1 and avenged an earlier loss at Coastal Carolina. The win keeps the Panthers in second place in the conference.

Coastal Carolina (13-14, 6-10) got stellar performances from guards DeVante Jones, who had 24 points, nine assists and six rebounds, and Garrick Green, who scored 17.

“As far as conference play goes, I feel like this weekend we’ve improved the most of any weekend of the conference season,” Lanier said. “We came out and played with great energy on Thursday (against Appalachian State), and I thought we followed that up for the most part.”

Georgia State surged ahead behind an 8-0 run – aided by forcing four Coastal Carolina turnovers – that gave the Panthers a 24-15 lead. Georgia State eventually built a 10-point lead on Wilson’s basket with 6:07 remaining.

The team’s two big men got into a slight dustup late in the first half. Coastal Carolina’s Levi Cook, a beefy 6-foot-10, 280-pound junior, was clearing a rebound and caught Georgia State’s Jalen Thomas, a healthy 6-10, 210-pound freshman with his right elbow. Cook was charged with a flagrant-1 foul, and Thomas was assessed a technical for his reaction after the incident. Thomas made both of his free throws, and DeVante Jones made one of two for Coastal Carolina, leaving Georgia State with a 43-30 lead.

The Panthers led 43-32 at halftime.

Georgia State led by 16 with 12:28 left when Phillips fielded a missed free throw and slammed it through for a 63-47 lead.

Coastal Carolina came back to twice trim the lead to six, the final time at 74-68 on Tim Ceaser’s 3-pointer. That started a 12-4 that included the two treys from Phillips and four free throws from Wilson.

“We had some lapses, like we normally do,” Lanier said. “We’ve still got room for growth, but I like the energy inside our team and the attitude they have going forward. I think we’ve got a chance to keep improving right now.”

Georgia State is on the road this week at Texas-Arlington and Texas State before coming home to close the season against rival Georgia Southern, which whom the Panthers are tied in the conference, and league-leading Arkansas-Little Rock.

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