Georgia State cleared for conference opener Thursday

Georgia State head coach Rob Lanier argues after his team was called for a technical foul during the third overtime against Georgia Tech that ended in a 110-110 tie during Tech’s home opener in a NCAA college basketball game that extended into the early morning hour of Thursday, Nov 26, 2020, in Atlanta. Georgia State went on to beat Georgia Tech 123-120 in the fourth overtime period.

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

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Georgia State head coach Rob Lanier argues after his team was called for a technical foul during the third overtime against Georgia Tech that ended in a 110-110 tie during Tech’s home opener in a NCAA college basketball game that extended into the early morning hour of Thursday, Nov 26, 2020, in Atlanta. Georgia State went on to beat Georgia Tech 123-120 in the fourth overtime period.

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Panthers may get power forward Nsoseme in lineup for first time

By the time the Georgia State basketball team gets around to its Sun Belt Conference opener Thursday, the landscape around the program may start to look like normal. Or at least as normal as possible.

The Panthers had to shut things down a week ago when COVID-19 testing left them with only five players healthy enough to take the court. The team returned to full workouts Tuesday and had nine players cleared for practice. More are expected to get the OK for Wednesday’s workouts, and the Panthers could have everyone available when they host Texas-Arlington at 7 p.m. Thursday at the GSU Sports Arena.

“You have to find some continuity where you can,” Georgia State coach Rob Lanier said. “One of the things you have to learn to deal with is what’s consistent is the uncertainty. And you have to adapt to that uncertainty has become the norm.”

Among those who have returned is Eliel Nsoseme, a 6-foot-8 senior who has been rehabbing a knee all season. The high-energy forward, who averaged 11.7 points and 10.1 rebounds in 20 games last season, was allowed to practice for the first time all season and could play as soon as Thursday.

“That was encouraging to see him run down the floor and hearing his voice and feeling his energy,” Lanier said. “He’s not 100%, but he was part of everything we did for the first time, so that was nice. In terms of guys that would play on Thursday, I’m not sure if he would or not. … We’re going to see how he recovers from workouts today and tomorrow, but we’re not going to press him into action.”

Even without Nsoseme, the Panthers appeared to be rounding into shape before things stopped. They lost in overtime to Georgia Tech before the break and were playing their best before being shut down. Lanier is curious how the team will respond upon the restart.

“As a coach in whatever sport, you get into a routine and you try to develop habits,” Lanier said. “Part of the routine is the availability of the players. So you may have a semblance of a routine, but you know when you stop you may have a certain group and when you restart, you may have guys who weren’t there before who are coming back. There’s just an overall disruption to your routine.”

The Panthers (6-5) had road games canceled last week at Arkansas State and Little Rock, and on Tuesday their game against Texas State on Saturday was canceled. On Thursday, the Panthers host host Texas-Arlington (6-7, 2-0). The game can be seen on ESPN-Plus and heard locally on WRAS-FM 88.5.

Georgia State is led by Corey Allen, who averages 15.9 points but missed three games and doesn’t yet meet the minimum to be included among the Sun Belt leaders. Justin Roberts (13.2 points), Kane Williams (12.7) and Nelson Phillips (10.6) are among the top 25 in the conference.

Williams, a super senior from Douglasville, needs eight points to catch Chavelo Holmes for sixth place on the school’s career scoring record. Holmes scored 1,375 points in four seasons from 1981-86.

Texas-Arlington has won three consecutive games and swept South Alabama and Troy in its conference openers last week. David Azore (15.9 points) ranks fourth in the Sun Belt in scoring for the Roadrunners.

“Getting back on the floor, there was a sense of appreciation for just being in a gym together,” Lanier said.

Georgia State announced that the Jan. 13 game at South Alabama will be nationally televised on ESPN2. It will be the 21st time the Panthers have played on national television since the 2013-14 season, all of them on the road or at a neutral site.

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