Georgia State comes up short against conference-leading Appalachian State

Georgia State guard Lucas Taylor scored 14 Thursday. File photo by Jason Allen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Jason Allen

Credit: Jason Allen

Georgia State guard Lucas Taylor scored 14 Thursday. File photo by Jason Allen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Playing the role of Goliath for Georgia State’s opponent on Thursday was Appalachian State’s Justin Abson.

Listed as 6-foot-9 and as thick as a Varsity milkshake at 235 pounds, Abson became the latest big guy to have a big night against the Panthers. He matched his season-high 15 points and had 15 rebounds to lead the Sun Belt Conference-leading Mountaineers to an 81-71 win over Georgia State at the GSU Convocation Center.

The loss was the fifth straight for the Panthers, who fell to 9-12 overall and 4-6 in the Sun Belt.

“App State is probably one of the most talented teams that we’ve faced,” Georgia State coach Jonas Hayes said. “They can beat you in a lot of different ways.”

And while Abson and 6-7 forward Tre’Von Spillers (13 points) were problems inside, it was Terrence Harcum’s outside touch that led to 22 points, including four deflating 3-pointers. App State, the first-place team in the Sun Belt, improved to 18-4 overall, 9-1 in conference play.

“We didn’t do ourselves any favors. I think we had too many breakdowns,” Hayes said. “But I still believe in my team and we’re going to become the team that we want to be. We’ve got some growing pains right now but I’ve got some fighters in my locker room and we’re going to back to the drawing board and get prepared to play Troy on Saturday.”

Georgia State had four players in double figures – Lucas Taylor with 14, Jay’Den Turner and Leslie Nkereuwem with 13 and Dwon Odom with 10. Turner, Nkereuwem and Taylor all had eight rebounds.

Appalachian State went on a 10-0 run and began to build a lead, which peaked at nine points on a basket by Spillers with 3:01 to play in the first half. But Taylor responded with a jumper to turn the momentum toward GSU and Odom drove the lane and scored on a floater to tie the game 30-30 at halftime.

“I thought at the end of the first half we did a good job of speeding them up, especially with our ball-screen coverages,” Hayes said. “But in the second half we had a couple of mental lapses and we didn’t have some defensive coverages that were handled. And it cost us against a really good team.

App State quickly regained the momentum in the second half with a 14-2 start and built a 12-point advantage. From that point the Panthers never got closer than seven points, as Appalachian State matched the next five GSU baskets with field goals of their own.

“The defensive lapses were a bit of immaturity,” Hayes said. “I think our guys are fighting, but we give them a scouting report for a reason and attaching yourself to the details of that is the next piece that we’re going to have to get better at.”

The Panthers return home on Saturday to play Troy at 4 p.m. in the second half of a doubleheader. The GSU woman (12-8) play Georgia Southern at 1 p.m.

Taylor echoed the opinion of Hayes about the team’s determination.

“We love basketball and we came here because we want to play to win,” Taylor said. “We’re continuing to look at ourselves individually on what we need to do better and we’re all doing a better job of that. We’re all just focused on staying together and the guys in the locker room want to win.”

Heavily attended by students, who packed their sections in the north end of the arena and spilled over into the upper decks, the game drew 3,127, the second-largest crowd of the season.

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