Georgia State's Kane Williams. AJC file photo

Georgia State routed in Sun Belt quarterfinals

Georgia State had no answer for Georgia Southern’s duo of Quan Jackson and Isaiah Crawley and found its season unceremoniously ended by the rival Eagles 81-62 in the Sun Belt Conference tournament quarterfinals on Wednesday at the GSU Sports Arena. 

Jackson had 19 points and six rebounds and Crawley finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds for Georgia Southern, which defeated Georgia State in two of the three meetings. It is the first time Southern has beaten Georgia State twice in the same season since 1991 when the teams played in the TransAmerica Conference. 

“A lot of credit goes to Georgia Southern,” Georgia State coach Rob Lanier said. “In the second half they just played a little bit more connected, you know? And we just didn’t have it this time of year. We didn’t improve to the level to become the team that we want to become.”

Georgia Southern advances to play No. 1 seed Little Rock in the conference semifinal on Saturday at 12:30 in New Orleans. The Sun Belt Conference has not yet determined whether to allow fans to attend the semifinals and finals at the Smoothie King Center. 

Georgia State had been invited to play in the CBI tournament, but that event was cancelled earlier Wednesday. 

Georgia State led 39-38 on a basket by Nelson Phillips with 17:18 remaining, but was immediately outscored 11-1, with Simeon Carter’s slam off an alley-oop pass making it 49-40. Georgia State never got closer than five points. 

Georgia Southern (20-13) also got 13 points from Ike Smith, 11 points from Carter and 10 points from Calvin Wishart. 

Georgia State (19-13) was led by Kane Williams with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Damon Wilson with 10 points and five rebounds. 

“At this point in the season, Georgia Southern was the better team,” Lanier said. “They had more veteran leadership and they made plays. I think what happened is with our team, we didn’t reach that point where we were really grounded in our defense.” 

Georgia State could not overtime its poor shooting. The Panthers were only 24-for-63 from the field (38.1%) and their 12 turnovers led to 18 points for Southern. Georgia Southern was outrebounded 45-32. 

Emotions in the third meeting between the two rivals were raw from the start. 

Officials assessed a double-technical early when Southern’s David-Lee Jones Jr. fouled Georgia State’s Kavonte Ivery around the ankles, then got in Ivery’s face after getting to his feet. 

Southern’s Wishart, responding to a Georgia State fan’s taunting, drained a 3-pointer and put his fingers to his lips to form the “hush” sign. 

Georgia State’s Jalen Thomas went high to deny Southern’s Isaiah Crawley what would have been a monstrous dunk. But Thomas got more of Crawley’s head than he did ball, knocked him to the ground and drew an intentional foul. 

There were no incidents in the second half. 

“We were against Louisiana last game and we’re down 16 and we looked at our guys in the face and there was total belief that they weren’t going out like that,” Georgia Southern coach Mark Byington said. “The same thing tonight. I wouldn’t say the were just wanting Georgia State, but we’ve got four seniors and they don’t want their careers to end. They’ve been through too much to give up now.”

Crawley was dominant in the first half, scoring 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds. But Southern, which led by as many as nine points, led only 34-33 after Williams made a lengthy 3-pointer at the buzzer. 

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