Georgia State’s Kane Williams steals opening win of Sun Belt Tournament

Georgia State's Kane Williams celebrates the victory after his clutch steal.

Credit: AJ Henderson / Sun Belt Conferen

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Georgia State's Kane Williams celebrates the victory after his clutch steal.

Credit: AJ Henderson / Sun Belt Conferen

Georgia State’s Kane Williams further established his legacy as the leader on the senior-laden team with Saturday’s performance in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

Williams hit a clutch 3-pointer with 1:50 left to put the Panthers ahead by four points and secured the win with a steal to deny Arkansas State a final chance to tie the game.

“I’m not surprised. Kane has really stepped forward as the leader of our team right now,” coach Rob Lanier said. “He doesn’t have 23 points. Tonight he happened to be the guy who made the shots and made the key plays and tomorrow it will be someone else.”

Williams scored 23 points and had seven steals to lead Georgia State to a 65-62 win in the second round at the Pensacola Bay Center. It was the eighth straight win for the Panthers and their 10th in 11 games.

Georgia State advances to play the winner of the Georgia Southern-Appalachian State game on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN-Plus and broadcast locally on radio on WRAS-FM (88.5).

“I'm impressed by our guys," Lanier said. “Our backs were against the wall and they found a way to win."

Georgia State led by 10 points with 14:44 remaining, only to have Arkansas State get back in the game with a 7-0 run. The Red Wolves eventually tied it 55-55 on a basket by Norchad Omier and went up 60-59 on two free throws by Caleb Fields with 2:35 left.

The Georgia State defense did not allow a basket in the final 4:36 and Williams hit four straight free throws to give the Panthers a four-point lead with 1:30 left. He opened the door for Arkansas State by missing two free throw and making one of two with 26.2 seconds left, but atoned for that with the game-clinching steal.

With 11.8 seconds left, Arkansas State was trying to set up a 3-point shot. The ball wound up with Marquis Eaton, who had the ball taken away by Williams with five seconds left. He started toward the basket, but pulled away and dribbled out the clock.

“I just saw him bounce a pass and I really didn’t think I was going to get there in time,” Williams said. “I just put my hand out there and got piece of the ball and saw it loose and had to get the ball and run the clock off.”

GSU (16-10) also got 11 points from Corey Allen, 10 points and 12 rebounds from Eliel Nsoseme, eight points and seven rebounds from Jalen Thomas and eight points from Justin Roberts, who surpassed the 1,000-point career mark with a 3-pointer in the first half.

Georgia State was able to shut down Norchad Omier, the Sun Belt Player of the Year, for the first half, limiting him to six points. He heated up in the second half and finished with 21 points and 17 rebounds.

“That’s a credit to our players, especially Eliel, who’s an incredible defender,” Lanier said.

Arkansas State (18-11) got 11 points from Fields.

Georgia State’s regular-season game with Arkansas State was one of five cancelled because of COVID. The Panthers defeated the Red Wolves 71-68 in the tournament last season.