Georgia State calls off Thursday, Sunday games because of COVID-19

Georgia State's Jordan Rawls (4) gets the 3-point shot off over Mercer's Felipe Haase on Saturday at Hawkins Arena in Macon, Ga.

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Georgia State's Jordan Rawls (4) gets the 3-point shot off over Mercer's Felipe Haase on Saturday at Hawkins Arena in Macon, Ga.

Another rash of positive COVID-19 tests has shut down the Georgia State basketball program and led to the cancellation of the Panthers’ first two Sun Belt Conference games.

The Panthers (6-5) was scheduled to open league play on the road this week with games Thursday at Arkansas State and Sunday at Little Rock. Those games were canceled because of multiple positive tests among the vaccinated and unvaccinated players and staff members, including coach Rob Lanier.

These are the first cancellations of the season for the Panthers, who had eight games wiped out last season because of the virus. Kane Williams and Evan Johnson are the only players who have played in all of GSU’s games.

Georgia State last played Dec. 21 and lost a 72-62 overtime decision at Georgia Tech. The Panthers led that game by as many as six points in the final five minutes. It was an indication of continued growth for the team, which has competed through a difficult non-conference schedule. Georgia State was the preseason pick to win the Sun Belt.

“I think it’s a move in the right direction,” Lanier said after the Tech game. “I don’t think that was our best, but it’s the best we’ve been so far … unfortunately. There’s a lot of factors that contribute to the growth of a team during the course of a season, and every season is a new journey, and our journey has taken us on a little bit of a winding road, but I think we’re on the right path.”

The Panthers are scheduled to host Texas-Arlington on Jan. 6 and Texas State on Jan. 8 at the GSU Sports Arena.

Georgia State, playing without power forward Eliel Nsoseme all season, has relied heavily on the 3-point shot. The Panthers lead the Sun Belt in 3-pointers (103 made, 37.6%) and ranked third in the league in scoring (75.4 points).

“They’ve got a lot of good guards … a lot of good guards,” Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “They run good stuff. They’re fun to watch and really get up and down. Give coach Lanier and his staff credit. They’re a very good basketball team.”

Corey Allen (15.9 points, 5.0 rebounds), Justin Roberts (13.2 points), Williams (12.7 points, 4.6 rebounds), Nelson Phillips (10.6) and Jalen Thomas (7.0 rebounds) are the team leaders.

The GSU women (6-6) had their conference opener canceled because of issues within the Little Rock program. The Trojans have had their three games called off because of the flu and COVID and have not played in Dec. 12. The Georgia State women will travel to Arkansas State on Saturday.

According to Sun Belt policies, games canceled because of COVID are considered a no-contest and not rescheduled.