The result of the midseason coronavirus crisis was lack of preparation time and minimized opportunities to build team chemistry. Those issues have started to clear, and the progress was evident last weekend when the Panthers swept two road games against South Alabama, at that time the hottest team in the league, to win the division. Both nights they built big leads and withstood late flurries. They also won with different formulas – freshman Evan Scott scored 28 points one night, and all five starters scored in double figures the next night.
Georgia State’s three team leaders have been seniors Kane Williams and Corey Allen and junior Eliel Nsoseme. Williams (13.3 points) has been the consistent force with his work ethic, even when he was struggling on offense. Allen (14.9 points) continues to be the team’s primary 3-point scoring threat and has emerged as a leader, “not only vocally, but saying the right things,” Lanier said. Nsoseme, a junior transfer from Cincinnati who averages 11.1 points and 9.9 rebounds, is an inside warrior with a non-stop motor who has influenced gifted 6-foot-10 power forward Jalen Thomas to be more assertive and play hard all the time.
Thomas has blossomed late in the season as a threat to score close to the rim or step away and use his soft touch to knock down a jumper. He was named conference player of the week after averaging 17.3 points on 61 percent shooting, nine rebounds three blocks over the final three games.
Combined with Justin Roberts (13.4 points, 4.8 assists), a lockdown defensive player with a good shooting range, and a bench that has grown deeper as players start to get healthy again, and the Panthers have the makings of a team that could make some noise.
“We’re starting to realize what we envisioned prior to Christmas,” Lanier said.
The tournament promises to be wide open. Texas State (18-6) won the West Division and rides a seven-game winning streak. The Bobcats are ranked 15th in the CollegeInsider.com mid-major rankings, three spots ahead of Georgia State. Louisiana-Lafayette (16-8) was the division leader before stumbling on the final weekend.
The championship game will be played Monday night, with the winner earning a spot in the NCAA tournament.