Late rally not enough to save short-handed Georgia State

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

The Georgia State basketball team couldn’t get past its lack of preparation time and the shortage of healthy bodies on Thursday in its Sun Belt Conference opener.

The Panthers, who had not played since Dec. 21, returned from a week-long COVID shutdown and dropped a 70-63 home decision to Texas-Arlington, which won its fourth straight game and remained unbeaten in the league.

“It was so good to be back out there and have an opportunity to play again,” Georgia State coach Rob Lanier said. “At the same time, we’re a team that really had one day of practice and very little time to prepare. We weren’t in good shape and didn’t have much rhythm.”

Georgia State (6-6, 0-1) had only eight players capable of playing – there were only five who were cleared to practice as early as Monday -- and it really began to show in the second half, when the Mavericks began to pull away.

But the Panthers, who trailed by 15 points with 5:54 remaining, continued to play hard and cut the lead to three points on a Justin Roberts’ 3-pointer with 23.1 seconds left. Texas-Arlington was able to hang on by making four free throws in the final 20 seconds.

“We showed some fight down the stretch through some adversity and some frustration, so I was proud of that,” Lanier said. “We’ll get healthier in the next couple weeks. Our best basketball is ahead of us, so I’m encouraged by that.”

The Panthers got a boost from the return of 6-foot-8 senior Eliel Nsoseme, who played for the first time all season while rehabbing a left knee injury. Nsoseme wound up playing 23 minutes; he scored 10 points and had seven rebounds and three blocked shots.

“We didn’t anticipate playing Eliel 22 minutes, but you throw him in there and you get five or six rebounds and he plays hard and he wants to stay in the game and he did a nice job,” Lanier said. “So that’s encouraging as we move forward.”

Georgia State was led by Corey Allen, who scored 15 points and had seven assists. Roberts scored 12 and Kane Williams joined Nsoseme with 10 points. Jalen Thomas had a game-high 12 rebounds.

Williams passed Chavelo Holmes for sixth place on the school’s career scoring list. Williams has 1,377 points

Texas-Arlington (7-7, 3-0) got 17points from David Azore and 16 points and eight rebounds from Patrick Mwamba.

The first half was tight from the tip. The largest lead by either team was four points and Georgia State took a 32-31 lead into the break on Allen’s 3-pointer with nine seconds left. He scored 10 in the first half. The officials let both teams play; Texas-Arlington had one free throw attempt and GSU had none.

Texas-Arlington opened a seven-point lead early in the second half on a 3-pointer from Nicolas Elame to complete a 10-2 run. Georgia State trimmed it back to two on a 3-pointer from Allen, but the Mavericks scored eight straight and led by 10 on a 3-pointer from Mwamba with 8:11 remaining.

With limited personnel, Georgia State ditched its man-to-man defense and relied on zone most of the night.

“You could tell during the timeouts that we were tired,” Lanier said. “We normally pick up 94 feet and tonight we were just playing halfcourt. We played more zone than we have all year.”

Georgia State won’t play again until Thursday at South Alabama, as Saturday’s home game was cancelled because of COVID issues with Texas State.

“We hope in the days to come that we can get back into more of a practice routine and get in shape and start to improve as a basketball team.”