Georgia State avenges earlier loss to Mercer

Georgia State's Eliel Nsoseme Nsoseme scored 16 points and had 20 rebounds. AJC file photo: Curtis Compton /

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Georgia State's Eliel Nsoseme Nsoseme scored 16 points and had 20 rebounds. AJC file photo: Curtis Compton /

Mercer didn’t get a real good look at Georgia State center Eliel Nsoseme or guard Justin Roberts when the two teams played two weeks ago. The lack of familiarity was solved in the first half of Wednesday’s rematch and it made a great deal of difference

With the two juniors playing back to their standards, Georgia State earned some revenge by handing Mercer its first loss, beating the Bears 88-81 at the GSU Sports Arena.

“The key was our offensive approach,” Georgia State coach Rob Lanier said. “We keep a shot-quality chart in the first game it was our worst of the year. We had some droughts during this game, but our overall shot quality was starting to be the way we want.”

In the 17-point loss on Nov. 30 in Macon, Nsoseme had only eight points and seven rebounds and Roberts scored just 10. Both passed those totals in the first half.

Nsoseme scored 10 of his 16 points – including a couple of left hooks – and had nine of his career-high 20 rebounds in the opening half. The 20 rebounds were the most by a Georgia State player since 1995 and the total tied for the fifth-most in school history.

Roberts had 10 of his game-high 17 points by the half and was at the center of a defense that forced the Bears into eight first-half turnovers.

“That’s a really good win for our team,” Lanier said. “It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t always pretty, but any time you beat a good team like that, it’s good progress for your team.”

The 4-1 start is the best for Georgia State since it started 7-0 in 2000-01.

Georgia State also got 16 points from Corey Allen, who had three 3-pointers, and 15 points and nine assists from Kane Williams. Center Jalen Thomas returned after missing the last three games and scored eight points

Mercer (6-1) had five players in double figures: Neftali Alvarez with 17, Jeff Gary with 13, Ross Cummings with 12, Maciej Bender with 11 and Felipe Haase with 10.

Lanier said, “I almost feel like we should probably play them every year because because they’re so well coached and the stuff they run is really good. It makes you better. If not for that (first Mercer) game, we might not win the Charlotte game. They force you to concentrate and the way they humbled us the first time forced us to concentrate.”

Georgia State took the lead for good at 18-17 on Nsoseme’s layup at the 11:19 mark. That was part of a 13-2 run that gave the Panthers a 29-19 lead. They scored the final seven points of the half, concluding on Williams’ 3-pointer for a 47-34 lead.

Georgia State led by 20 when Evan Johnson made a 3-pointer, but Mercer wasn’t finished. The Bears erased a 16-point second-half deficit to beat Georgia Southern on Sunday and had another comeback in mind. They used an 11-0 run and cut the lead to 69-60 on a dunk by Bender with 9:49 left.

The Panthers still had a comfortable 13-point lead with 3:43 remaining, only to have Bears go on a 9-2 spurt and close the margin to six points. Mercer drew within five points on a driving basket by Alvarez with 39.7 seconds left, but never got any closer.

“They did a great job extending the game late and creeping back into it,” Lanier said. “Give credit to their coaching and credit to our guys that they hung in there.”

Georgia State plays at home again on Friday at 2 p.m. against Carver.