“I wouldn’t say it was an emotional game, but it was a game we really wanted to win,” Cottle said. “We want to be the best team in Georgia, so it was just like a moment-setting, like we’re the one.”
Cottle, a product of Tri-Cities High School in East Point, carried the Owls (5-3) with a career-high 27 points on 10-for-16 shooting, and Quincy Ademokoya scored a career-high 17 points, going 4-for-4 from distance, with nine rebounds and two blocks. Demond Robinson added 14 points and six rebounds.
“Simeon embraces the work,” Kennesaw State coach Antoine Pettway said. “A lot of guys have gotten better, and Simeon has gotten better than any of them just because of the work he puts in, his time away from practice. You work that hard, you have confidence.”
Georgia State (3-4) placed five in double figures – Lucas Taylor with 17, Dwon Odom with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists, Jay’Den Turner and Toreani Lane with 13 each, and Julian Mackey with 10.
“They absolutely beat us in every aspect of this game,” Georgia State coach Jonas Hayes said. “From the level of physicality to the connectedness, both on offense and the defensive end. They have winners, man, and they’re going to prove to be a tough team in their league. And you know what? We’re going to meet that challenge one day. We didn’t have it today. I love my team, but today we fell way short. That’s something we’ve got to get better at continually.”
The key run came when Kennesaw State made a 17-0 run midway in the first half to take control of the game. The streak finished with the Owls ahead 27-8, having held GSU scoreless for 7:14. Georgia State used an 8-0 run late in the half and cut the lead to nine points, 39-30, with 1:34 left. KSU led 43-32 at halftime.
“I thought our guys came out with great intensity on the defensive end,” Pettway said. “I thought our defense was not very good in the last game and we focused on it for the whole time leading up to the Georgia State game. When we do a great job on the defensive end, we’re allowed to get out in transition and play our style of play.”
Kennesaw State led by as many as 21 in the second half and never let Georgia State get closer than nine points.
“I knew it wasn’t going to come down to scheme, it was going to come down to see who could be the most emotionally mature,” Hayes said. “And I think for the most part, without question, they were more consistently emotionally mature than we were. This is just another talking point I want to be able to use going forward.”
The teams had not played since the 1988-89 season. The three previous meetings, each won by Georgia State, occurred when Kennesaw State played on the NAIA level. The coaches already have discussed starting an annual home-and-home series starting next season.
“I have picked out a date, but I’ve got get-back on my mind,” Hayes said.