The 3-pointers were falling for Georgia State on Sunday, and the Panthers combined that success, along with another strong defensive effort, to end their two-game losing streak.
Georgia State made a season-high 12 shots from distance and overcame a 12-point deficit to knock off Rhode Island 75-66 at the GSU Convocation Center.
“The one thing that we preach as coaches is shot quality,” Georgia State coach Jonas Hayes said. “I thought the quality of our shots were good. Now we shot 25 3s, but there were a lot of good 3s and we were able to make a bunch of them.”
Brenden Tucker, Jamaine Mann and Kalik Brooks each hit three 3-pointers, and Evan Johnson tossed in a couple. It was just a week ago that the Panthers made only one long-range shot. The team had made nine successful 3-pointers in a game twice this season, both coming against an NAIA opponent.
Tucker led the Panthers (6-5) with 15 points, followed by Dwon Odom with 14 points and eight assists, Johnson with 14 points and Mann with 10 points. Rhode Island (4-8) got 21 from Brayon Freeman, but only four came in the second half.
“It’s good to see one go in,” Tucker said. “I see one go in, and it’s going to be a long night.”
The intensity of the game bubbled over in the first half when Tucker was knocked to the ground and fouled by Rhode Island’s Sebastian Thomas, who tumbled on top of him. Both players had to be separated by teammates while officials looked at the video to determine the course of action. No players were ejected, but Johnson and Rhode Island’s Malik Martin were given technical fouls.
“You really have to stay poised,” Tucker said. “I felt like if that had taken me out of my character, that would have affected the whole team. So definitely had to let it go.”
The game was quite different from the meeting a year ago, when Georgia State had only seven scholarship players available because of injuries and COVID-19. The Panthers played with only one regular starter and were beaten 94-59. The series between the schools is tied at 2-2.
Georgia State trailed by 12 points midway in the first half after the Rams went on an 11-0 run to take a 22-11 lead on a 3-pointer by Thomas.
“I can’t stress how proud I am of the guys putting a little adversity behind them early in the game and being able to play our brand of basketball,” Hayes said.
The Panthers played the final 4:51 of the half without floor leader Odom, who picked up his third personal on an offensive foul. But GSU continued to peck away and tied the game at 33 on a basket by Johnson, who scored nine first-half points.
Rhode Island led 36-35 at halftime and stretched the lead to five early in the second. GSU took the lead on an 8-0 run that included treys from Tucker and Mann and a creative layup by freshman Edward Nnamoko.
Rhode Island was able to tie the game at 49, but Georgia State outscored the Rams 24-10 to take a commanding 73-59 lead with 2:12 left to put the game away. That run included a slam by Odom on a four-on-one break that he celebrated by taking three stomp steps the other way.
“There was a lot of talking going on out there,” Odom said. “That got the crowd going, and then it’s like we kicked into another gear. We always try to feed off the momentum, and we did that and ended up getting the win.”
Georgia State plays its final nonconference game Wednesday against Toccoa Falls before starting Sun Belt Conference competition Dec. 29 against James Madison.
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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC