Short-handed Georgia State wins Legends Classic

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Credit: compton@ajc.com

Playing with a short roster, Georgia State leaned on a pair of their veterans to win the Legends Classic at High Point on Sunday.

Seniors Justin Roberts scored 25 points and Kane Williams added 21 points and 11 rebounds to help the Panthers outlast High Point 74-66 in overtime of the championship game.

Williams, who netted his second career double-double, was named MVP of the tournament. Roberts was named to the all-tournament team.

“I’m proud of the team and our ability to handle some real adversity that the game threw at us,” coach Rob Lanier said. “That’s something that we’ve been trying to emphasize to our team as a point that we need to improve upon. Tonight we were presented with that opportunity and we met the challenge. So I’m excited.”

Roberts had a big 3-pointer with 2:30 left in overtime to give Georgia State a four-point lead and the Panthers built added an 8-0 run to put the game away.

Georgia State (4-1) also got 10 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks from freshman Ja’Heim Hudson, who had his first career double-double, and seven points from sophomore Evan Johnson, including a long-range 3-pointer in overtime.

Georgia State was without two starters. Corey Allen, the Sun Belt Conference’s player of the week, missed both tournament games with a concussion and nasal fracture suffered in Tuesday’s game at Richmond. Eliel Nsoseme continues to rehab the knee injury that has caused him to miss the first five games.

“The fact that Corey not being there gave us another opportunity where we had to have other guys step up and contribute,” Lanier said. “So in a lot of ways, this is an experience that will serve us well as we move forward and try to build as a team.”

The problem with their absence was compounded when Jalen Thomas got in early foul trouble and missed most of the second half. The 6-foot-10 rim protector picked up his third personal foul early in the second half and took his fourth as part of a double-technical foul with 19:21 left. Thomas did not return until 7:30 left and fouled out 30 seconds into overtime. He was limited to two points and three rebounds.

Williams finished with 44 points in the tournament and moved up to No. 7 on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,305 points, passing James Andrews, who scored 1,279 points from 1985-89. His next target is Chavelo Holmes with 1,375 points from 1981-86.

High Point (2-3) got 17 points each from Jaden House and John-Michael Wright.

High Point started hot and had a 12-4 lead after Zach Austin’s 3-pointer with 15:30. But Georgia State found their offense behind Williams and tied it 20-20 when Jordan Rawls scored an easy layup after a steal.

Georgia State took the lead for the first time when Williams converted a three-point play on the next possession and the Panthers remained in front the rest of the half. Georgia State took a 36-30 lead into intermission.

“We had enough enough guys to step up and make enough plays toget it done,” Lanier said. “Our defensive effort ... we had some breakdowns throughout the course of the game, but all in all, we were locked in defensively.”

Georgia State led by 10 on a baseline move from Hudson, but allowed High Point to get back in the contest with a pair of untimely fouls – one that led to a four-point play, another that resulted in three free throws that cut GSU’s lead to 47-43. High Point briefly took the lead and tied it with 59 seconds left on a layup from Rod Peterson.

Georgia State had a chance to win in regulation, but Allen’s drive to the basket was contested and missed, leaving the teams tied 59-59.

High Point is coached by former Georgia and Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, in his fourth season at the school. The school served as host of the event at its new $170 million Qubein Arena and Conference Center.

“It was special for me that I got to share the court with Tubby Smith,” Lanier said. “Now I’m not a young guy anymore, but I’ve got tremendous admiration for him. He’s had his imprint on the history of the game and it was an honor for me to coach against Tubby and after the game be able to share a moment with him that is really meaningful to me as a coach.”

Georgia State is off until Saturday when they travel to Rhode Island. Allen will be fitted with a protective mask this week and will be able to return.

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