Georgia State struggles in loss to Appalachian State

Georgia State coach Rob Lanier.  “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Georgia State coach Rob Lanier. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

The Georgia State basketball team got a reality check this weekend against Appalachian State.

The Panthers never got its half-court offense in motion, struggled mightily from 3-point range and failed to create points off turnovers Saturday in Boone, N.C. The result was a 74-61 loss to Appalachian State, as the host Mountaineers swept the two-game weekend series and took over first place in the Sun Belt Conference’s Eastern Division. Appalachian State won Friday’s game 80-71.

“This weekend was a great learning experience for where we are right now,” Georgia State coach Rob Lanier said. “We’ve got a long way to go. There’s a lot of basketball left to be played. Right now (Panthers players) think we’re better than we are. I think they learned today that we’ve got a long way to go.”

It should have been a good weekend for the Panthers (8-4, 2-3 Sun Belt), who had their full roster available for the first time since the season opener, as preseason all-conference guard Kane Williams returned. But Georgia State did not resemble the same team that has victories over Georgia Tech and Mercer and was No. 7 in the College Insiders Mid-Major rankings.

On Saturday, the Panthers shot only 40 percent from the floor and made only 3 of 17 from 3-point range, an 18 percent success rate. GSU entered the weekend averaging 48.3 percent from the field and 36.6 percent on 3s. The Panthers were outrebounded 40-29 and scored only six points off turnovers.

“It was a disappointing weekend to say the least,” Lanier said. “They were the tougher team, no doubt. There’s no excuse for the lack of effort and toughness we had on display.”

Corey Allen led the Panthers with 19 points, but was 1-for-6 on 3-pointers. Justin Roberts added 18, and Jalen Thomas scored 10 points. Eliel Nsoseme had 12 rebounds, five of them on the offensive glass, and blocked two shots.

Appalachian State (12-5, 6-2) got 22 points and 13 rebounds from James Lewis. Donovan Gregory scored 14, and Michael Almonacy and Justin Forrest each scored 13.

“I think we’ll get better, and I think App State helped us in a lot of ways show us what a good team looks like, what toughness looks like,” Lanier said. “I think we have it in our group. What we found out this weekend is we’ve got a long way to go.”

Georgia State got off to a fast start, with Thomas and Allen each knocking down three baskets to give the Panthers a 16-7 lead at the 13:37 mark.

But the Panthers went cold and suffered through a stretch of turnovers and errant shots that allowed Appalachian State to go on a 19-3 run and take a 26-19 lead at 6:12. Georgia State went 5:20 without a point.

The Mountaineers stretched the lead to 10 points when Almonacy connected for a 32-22 lead at 3:50 and led 37-26 at the half on a long-distance 3 from Forrest at the horn.

Georgia State made a nice second-half run and got to within 42-40 when Nsoseme made a pair of free throws. But Appalachian State responded with a 17-6 run to take a 59-46 lead with 4:35, and the Panthers were finished.

“Our guys had enough pride to come out, fight back and get in the game,” Lanier said. “It was a four-point game, and you’ve got to play the game out. What App State did was help us look in the mirror and gave us the opportunity to get back to work.”

Georgia State returns home and will begin a two-game series against South Alabama on Friday, the first of five in a row at the GSU Sports Arena.