Georgia State routs Appalachian State for fourth consecutive victory

Georgia State Panthers basketball clipboard.
Georgia State Panthers basketball clipboard.

Credit: Georgia State Athletics

Credit: Georgia State Athletics

The Georgia State basketball team found success from the inside and the outside Tuesday and continues to build momentum for the coming Sun Belt Conference tournament.

The Panthers got a bit of revenge with an 85-71 victory over Appalachian State on Tuesday at the GSU Sports Arena in the final home game of the season. It was the most points scored this season against the Mountaineers, who ranked second in the conference in fewest points allowed, at 62.4 points.

“I liked the way pace the game was played at,” Georgia State coach Rob Lanier said. “We talk about playing without hesitation, and I think we did that. I feel good about our team and still think there’s significant improvements we can make.”

It was the fourth consecutive win for Georgia State and pulled the Panthers into a tie with Coastal Carolina for second place in the Eastern Conference. It also avenged two losses to the Mountaineers in Boone, N.C., in January in the middle of Georgia State’s COVID-19 problems.

It was the perimeter punch of Kane Williams, who was 6-for-8 on 3-pointers en route to scoring a career-high 24 points, and the inside effort of Jalen Thomas, who scored 22 points, setting a new career high for the third consecutive game, and had eight rebounds.

Williams passed Jeff Thomas and moved into 15th place on the school’s career scoring list. He is seven points shy of catching No. 14 Shellord Pinkett. Williams has emerged from his dry spell to average 16 points over the past four games.

“I’m proud of him, happy for him and not surprised,” Lanier said. “He’s a better player than he had been playing for a stretch and now you’re seeing a guy playing the way he’s capable of playing.”

Georgia State (12-5, 6-4) also got 16 points, six assists and five rebounds from Corey Allen and eight points and eight rebounds from Eliel Nsoseme.

Appalachian State (12-10, 6-7) has lost five consecutive. The Mountaineers got 24 points from grad transfer Michael Almonacy, 21 of them coming in the second half. Decatur native Justin Forrest (son of former Georgia Tech player James Forrest) and Adrian Delph both scored 13, and James Lewis added 12 points and seven rebounds.

The Panthers were the aggressor from the start and grabbed a quick eight-point lead when Williams converted a four-point play for a 17-9 lead. The Panthers upped the lead to 11 when Eliel Nsoseme scored on a left-handed layup in traffic.

The Mountaineers got as close as seven points with 4:22 left, but the inside punch of Thomas and Nsoseme scored the next two baskets in the paint to restore the 11-point lead.

Georgia State led 41-31 at halftime. The Panthers made six 3-pointers and turned the ball over only twice.

The Mountaineers made a charge to start the second half, making a pair of 3′s and a steal and layup by Almonacy that cut the lead to four points at 18:02. But Georgia State answered with seven consecutive points to push the lead back to 11.

Appalachian State had another run midway in the half and got to within eight points on an Almonacy 3-pointer with 6:19 This time answered with a 7-0 run and outscored the Mountaineers 12-2 over the next four minutes to put the game away.

Even Lanier had to drill down to find some things the Panthers didn’t do well.

“In the first half we probably had six or seven rim shots that we didn’t complete,” Lanier said. “We made 11 3′s, but we needed those in the second half because we missed so many shots at the rim. We’re not a team that’s going to make 10 to 11 3′s, so we’ve got to take care of the ball and finish at the rim.”

Appalachian State was playing without Donovan Gregory, who averages a team-leading 11.6 points. Georgia State had most of its roster available, although Kaleb Scott (foot) and Collin Moore (knee soreness) were withheld. JoJo Toppin, an athletic 6-6 transfer from Georgia, has left the team and will enter the transfer portal.

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