Georgia State overcomes adversity to edge Texas A&M-Commerce

A young Georgia State team, playing without two of its starters, took another step in their maturation process Saturday.

After losing Friday on a half-court shot at the buzzer, the Panthers came back to handle some late adversity and beat Texas A&M-Commerce 57-53 at the GSU Convocation Center in the second game of the Capitol City Classic.

The Panthers played the entire game without two starters who were injured Friday. Brenden Tucker (hamstring) and Evan Johnson (ankle), two of the team’s top offensive threats, did not take the court. But their absence allowed opportunities for others to step into those roles and respond.

“I cannot say enough about the group we have in our locker room,” GSU coach Jonas Hayes said. “The amount of fight, the amount of grit that we are showing is what, I think, is the foundation of championship basketball. Now, while that may not always look pretty, I think the mentality that we have though all the adversity we’ve had, that’s huge for this group going forward.”

Georgia State had a six-point lead with six minutes left when A&M-Commerce went on a 9-0 run and took a 51-48 lead. But the Panthers rallied behind the on-court leadership of Dwon Odom and Jamaine Mann, who was injured Friday and spent hours with the trainer simply to get ready to play. Georgia State outscored the Lions 9-2 over the final three minutes to win the game.

Mann scored four points, Odom made two free throws and Ja’Heim Hudson iced the game with a free throw with 15.4 seconds left.

A big moment came with 1:17 left when Mann emerged from a scrum and scored the go-ahead basket. It’s the sort of hard-nosed play that Hayes has promised since his arrival.

“That loose ball could have been anybody’s ball,” Odom said. “But that’s one thing we do in practice, we fight and we came up with it. We were able to stay aggressive and finish out the game plan. For us, it’s about staying true to who we are and continuing to play hard and fight. And even though we went through some adversity as a team, we still found a way to get the win.”

Georgia State (3-2) was led by Odom’s 20 points, six rebounds and four assists. Mann added 12 points and four rebounds. Texas A&M-Commerce (1-4) got 14 points from C.J. Roberts.

The Panthers went deep on their bench and for one six-minute stretch in the first half had Jalen Bouknight, Kaleb Scott, Joe Jones, Kalik Brooks and Mann on the court.

“Jalen Bouknight … how about that?” Hayes said. “He hadn’t sniffed a minute all year long, but check this out. He is the Webster’s dictionary definition of, ‘I will always prepare so that whenever my name and my number is called, I’ll be ready.’ That’s what it looks like.”

The Panthers built an early 11-point lead when Edward Nnamoko banked in a jumper for a 20-19 lead, and GSU led 30-23 at halftime. Odom scored nine points to lead the Panthers in the first half.

Odom has topped 20 points twice in the past three games and continues to embrace his role as the team’s leader.

“It’s about letting the game come to you,” Odom said. “My coaches, they put everyone in position to try to make plays in the flow of our offense. I just try to take what the defense gives me, and we try to keep things simple. Me, as a leader, I just try to stay aggressive, stay positive. Not everything is going to be perfect, but we just trying to keep pushing and moving forward.”

Georgia State will play its final game in the Capitol Classic at 3 p.m. Sunday against North Carolina-Asheville.