Georgia State drops fourth game in a row

Justin Roberts finished with 13 points and five assists for Georgia State. Todd Drexler / SE Sports Media

Credit: Todd Drexler/SESPORTSMEDIA.com

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Justin Roberts finished with 13 points and five assists for Georgia State. Todd Drexler / SE Sports Media

Credit: Todd Drexler/SESPORTSMEDIA.com

The final seven minutes of Thursday night’s game against Appalachian State may have revealed the most prophetic look at the Georgia State basketball team.

The Panthers, picked in the preseason to win the Sun Belt Conference, rallied from 12 points down with seven minutes left to take the lead, only to suffer a 61-60 loss to Appalachian State on a last-second shot by Atlanta native Justin Forrest at the GSU Sports Arena.

Despite the setback, Georgia State – with all of its injured and ill pieces on the court for the first time all season – looked more like its old self than it has all year despite sustaining its fourth consecutive loss.

“I really hate it for our guys,” Georgia State coach Rob Lanier said. “That one hurts. But I’m proud of the effort and mental toughness we put on display, to fight through adversity and to give ourselves the opportunity we gave ourselves tonight. Now we’ve got to be tough enough to turn the page and have enough energy to go and try to get the next one.”

Georgia State (6-7, 0-3 Sun Belt) will play again at home on Saturday against Coastal Carolina.

Georgia State trailed by 12 with 7:09 remaining when a 12-point run enabled the Panthers to tie the game at 55-55 on a jumper by Corey Allen. They took the lead on a 3-pointer by Justin Roberts with a minute left and got the ball back on Kane Williams’ steal.

But Williams threw a poor pass on a well-defended inbounds play and App State was able to regain the lead on a pair of free throws by Forrest with 27 seconds left.

Georgia State took a 60-29 lead when Roberts hit a short jumper with 14 seconds remaining. App State did not call timeout, opting to rush the ball up the court, and the veteran Forrest delivered the winning blow with a well-guarded jump shot with 1.4 seconds left. A half-court 3-pointer by Allen drew back iron and bounced away.

“We’re a team now just fighting for some confidence,” Lanier said. “We came out with emotion today and emotion goes up and down as a reaction to whatever is happening. But when you play with passion, you’re focused on the goal and the ups and downs of the game don’t take you off that target. It doesn’t affect your focus. We played those last seven minutes with a level of passion and urgency and desperation.

“We proved to ourselves that we’re capable of fighting out of some tough circumstances. I don’t know if they can see it right now through the fog of disappointment, but there’s definitely some positives we can take from it.”

Georgia State got 16 points from Allen, 13 points and five assists from Roberts and nine points off the bench from Evan Johnson, who made three 3-pointers. Eliel Nsoseme and Ja’Heim Hudson each had 11 rebounds. Roberts scored the 1,000th point of career, his third season at GSU since transferring from DePaul.

Appalachian State (11-9, 5-2) continues to be an impediment to Georgia State. The Mountaineers, who returned 12 players and 93% of their scoring, won three of four meetings between the teams last year, one of them in the Sun Belt Conference championship game. They play again in Boone, N.C., on Feb. 12.

Forrest scored the last four points and hit the game winner, but only had seven points. The difference-maker was Adrian Delph, who scored 29 points, 19 of them in the first half.

“I think he’s one of the guys in our conference that’s got a chance to be a pro,” Lanier said. “He’s a terrific player and he certainly did have it going in the first half.”

Georgia State got off to a good start, making five of its first six shots and taking a 13-7 lead. But Appalachian State scored 16 straight points – 10 of them by Delph – and went ahead 23-13 at 9:40. The Mountaineers led by as many as 11 before GSU scored six straight on a driving three-point play from Roberts and a 3-pointer from Johnson to cut the lead to 31-27. App State scored twice in the final minute and led 35-27 at the half.

The second half was equally frustrating for Georgia State. Each time the Panthers appeared to have something going – getting to within six points on one occasion and seven on another – Appalachian State would have an answer. Until the final seven minutes.

“A win would have done a lot for us, but our time is going to come,” Lanier said. “I’m pretty confident about it.”

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