Georgia State beats rival Georgia Southern to end losing streak

ajc.com

Credit: Georgia State Athletics

Credit: Georgia State Athletics

There’s hardly a better feeling than ending a three-game losing streak by beating your biggest rival.

That’s what short-handed Georgia State did Thursday night, posting a hard-fought 79-75 win over Georgia Southern at the GSU Sports Arena. It also broke a two-game losing streak to the rival Eagles.

“I don’t want to diminish the rivalry because that’s important,” Georgia State coach Rob Lanier said. “But we needed a win. They’ve got a good team, a great young coach and we have been struggling as a team on the court. ... There’s some solace to get a win. I’m happy for these guys.”

Georgia State (9-5, 3-4 Sun Belt) did it from the inside and the outside and wound up nailing it down at the free-throw line, going 6-for-6 from the line after Justin Roberts gave them a 73-72 lead they would not relinquish. It wasn’t clinched until Roberts made two free throws with three seconds left.

Roberts mixed some drives and jump shots to lead the Panthers with 21 points, and Corey Allen scored 19, including three 3-pointers. The inside duo of Eliel Nsoseme (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Jalen Thomas (eight points, six rebounds) helped the Panthers outrebound the Eagles 43-31.

“It was a hard-fought win against a good, well-coached team,” Lanier said. “We hadn’t won a game since Jan. 16. It’s been that long. That and with the disruptions we’ve had, these guys really need a win and to do that we were going to have to fight for it. We did that and I’m happy for them.”

Georgia Southern (12-10, 6-7) got 21 points from Zack Bryant, a 6-foot-2 guard who had three two-handed slam dunks. Gedi Juozapaitis knocked down five 3-pointers and scored 17, and Kamari Brown scored 11.

After trailing most of the second half, Georgia State got back-to-back 3-pointers from Allen inside four minutes to tie the score and take the lead, at 69-68 with 3:42 remaining. The Panthers had two defensive stops, but couldn’t pad the lead, and Georgia Southern went ahead 70-69 on a pair of Eric Boone free throws with 1:34 remaining.

The Panthers regained the lead when Roberts drove and dumped into Thomas for a soft layup and a 71-70 lead at 1:03. The lead changed hands two more times before Roberts put the Panthers ahead to stay.

The two teams play again Saturday in Statesboro at 3 p.m.

Georgia Southern came out connecting on long-range shots, making its first four shots – all 3-pointers – and took a quick 12-4 lead. The barrage was unexpected; Southern averages 7.5 3-pointers per game and make only 32.2 percent of their 3′s.

“I love the fact they came out on fire and we were right there,” Lanier said. “They did shoot it well but I didn’t feel like they were going to make 30 3s. If the did we weren’t going to have much of a chance anyway. But to take that blow early and stay in the game, I was encouraged because we showed we could take a punch.”

Meanwhile, Georgia State successfully pounded the ball inside to 6-foot-9 Nsoseme and 6-foot-10 Thomas, who aggressively took the ball to the rim. The Panthers finally took the lead on a layup by Nsoseme at 10:58 for their first lead at 23-22. That was part of a 12-2 run that stretched the lead to 27-22 at 8:22.

Georgia Southern answered with seven consecutive points, the last on a 3-pointer by Bryant, to regain the lead. The score was tied three times, but the Eagles led 42-38 at halftime.

Southern held the lead for the first nine minutes of the second half before Georgia State tied the score at 57 on a Roberts layup off a fast break. Moments later Allen put the Panthers ahead for the first time with a jumper for a 61-59 lead.

Georgia State again played with a limited bench. JoJo Toppin was out and Collin Moore was only able to go six minutes. Sophomore Khalik Brooks played a career-high 18 valuable minutes and had three rebounds and three assists

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