Georgia State overcomes off-court obstacles to beat Coastal Carolina

Georgia State coach Rob Lanier. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Georgia State coach Rob Lanier. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Georgia State basketball coach Rob Lanier called Saturday’s victory over Coastal Carolina “the best win of the year.” That point would be hard to argue, even for a team that holds a win over Georgia Tech, given the circumstances.

The Panthers came from five points behind with three minutes left to beat Coastal Carolina 71-68 at the GSU Sports Arena. But it was more than just another dramatic win.

The victory came 14 days after the team’s last game. It came after the team stood idle, unable to practice for eight days. It came with one day of preparation and two of the club’s key pieces getting their first action since Dec. 22. And it came without preseason All-Sun Belt guard Kane Williams.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this group,” Lanier said. “It was a unique set of circumstances to deal with not playing eight of the last nine days and to have one day of preparation to play a team that just won their last two games and had a full week of practice.”

GSU showed plenty of gumption. They erased a nine-point lead with 8:16 left in the second half to tie the score, then fell behind by five with 2:50 remaining.

Leading the comeback was Corey Allen, who made two free throws to cut the margin to one with 1:43 left, and Eliel Nsoseme, who gave Georgia State the lead when he took a feed from Allen and dropped in a driving left-handed hook.

Nsoseme then rebounded the ensuing Coastal Carolina miss and cleared it to Allen, whose dribble-drive extended the lead to three points. Coastal Carolina’s dangerous Devante Jones missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied the score.

“That shows they’ve got the ability to bail their coach out, which was nice. We’re going to need it from time to time,” Lanier said. “It speaks to the point of composure and poise. They were playing better than us. They were outworking us. They were beating us to the 50-50 balls. The fact that we found a way, a great opportunity to address those things, and see some team growth going forward.”

Georgia State (8-2, 2-1 Sun Belt) got 15 points from Allen, who had three 3-pointers – two of them in the first comeback push. Justin Roberts had 14 points and six assists and freshman Ryan Boyce scored 14. Jalen Thomas added 12 points and four steals and Nsoseme grabbed 10 rebounds, his fourth time with double-digit rebounds in eight games.

Coastal Carolina (9-3, 3-2) got 21 points from Deanthony Tipler and 16 points and seven rebounds from Jones.

“This was a character-building game,” Lanier said. “We were missing Kane, who we rely on quite a bit, and we were incorporating Eliel and JoJo (Toppin) back in the game.”

Coastal Carolina scored the first six points of the game and had a 10-point lead after Tipler made a 3-pointer at 14:03. The Chanticleers continued to dominate and enjoyed an 11-point lead a couple of times, the latest with 4:15 left. But Georgia State closed the half on a 14-2 run, going ahead when Roberts made a 3-pointer with 41 seconds left.

Georgia State led by seven when Roberts made one of two free throws for a 44-37 lead with 15:57 remaining. That’s when Coastal Carolina went on a 19-9 run and had an eight-point lead with 10:50 left.

“When we reflect back on the game, it’s a great teachable moment that it’s a long game,” Lanier said. “The first half, it looks like it’s going to be a blowout, and the next thing you know we’re leading at halftime. We were outplayed for those first 20 minutes and outplayed for the vast majority of the second half, but we hung in there close and made enough plays to win the game. It was a great show of character.”

Georgia State plays again Friday and Saturday at Appalachian State before returning home for five consecutive games.

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