Corey Allen reshaped his body and his approach before the college basketball season started.

On Monday, Allen reaped the intended result when he helped Georgia State win the Sun Belt Conference championship and earn the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2019.

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia State players celebrate after winning the Sun Belt Tournament on Monday night in Pensacola, Fla. (AJ Henderson / Sun Belt Conference)

Credit: AJ Henderson / Sun Belt Conferen

Georgia State players celebrate after winning the Sun Belt Tournament on Monday night in Pensacola, Fla. (AJ Henderson / Sun Belt Conference)

Credit: AJ Henderson / Sun Belt Conferen

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia State players celebrate after winning the Sun Belt Tournament on Monday night in Pensacola, Fla. (AJ Henderson / Sun Belt Conference)

Credit: AJ Henderson / Sun Belt Conferen

Credit: AJ Henderson / Sun Belt Conferen

Allen scored 29 points to match his season high for the second straight game, earning tournament MVP honors, to lead the Panthers to an 80-71 win over Louisiana at the Pensacola (Fla.) Bay Center.

It was the 10th straight win for Georgia State and its 12th win in the last 13 games.

“It's special because the experience we had last year I think led to these guys' desire to return. And they were motivated to be here and do this."

- Georgia State coach Rob Lanier

Georgia State (18-10) won the Sun Belt Tournament for the fourth time and will make its sixth trip to the NCAAs. It also served as redemption for losing to Appalachian State in last year’s title game.

“It’s special because the experience we had last year I think led to these guys’ desire to return,” Georgia State coach Rob Lanier said. “And they were motivated to be here and do this.”

Allen was one of four seniors who decided to return for a COVID season. The others – Eliel Nsoseme, Kane Williams and Justin Roberts – were each big contributors to the championship and enjoyed the enthusiastic postgame celebratory scrum.

“There’s a lot of adjectives we could use, but it’s a special moment and I wouldn’t want to share it with anybody else,” Williams said.

Allen was 6-for-12 from the field, 5-for-6 on 3s and 12-for-12 at the line, with six assists. Nsoseme recorded his third straight double-double, getting 12 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks en route to being named to the all-tournament team. Junior Jalen Thomas had 12 points and two blocks. Williams added 10 points, three rebounds and three assists. Roberts had nine points, all on 3-pointers.

“There's a lot of adjectives we could use, but it's a special moment and I wouldn't want to share it with anybody else."

- Georgia State senior Kane Williams

The Panthers had a hard time dealing with 6-foot-11 Louisiana center Jordan Brown, one of the league’s elite players. Brown scored 24 points with eight rebounds and two blocks, but he was only 8-for-12 at the line. Greg Williams Jr. scored 15, including three 3s, before fouling out.

Georgia State was hot from the perimeter again in the first half, with Allen nailing three and Roberts hitting two, and the Panthers going 6-for-11 from distance. One of Allen’s 3s gave Georgia State an 11-point lead with 7:04 left in the half. Roberts’ final trey, which he calmly fired from the corner after waiting for a Louisiana defender to leap past him, gave the Panthers a 42-33 halftime lead.

Georgia State endured a dry offensive stretch midway in the second half, and Louisiana got as close as 55-52 with 7:29 left. The Ragin’ Cajuns missed a game-tying 3-pointer, and Georgia responded with a three-point play from Nsoseme. That sparked a 10-3 run that restored the 10-point lead, and Louisiana never got closer than seven.

“It’s easy to let your guard down when you get a lead like that, but our main focus was to keep going, keep playing, keep playing hard and keep boarding and keep pushing the pace to see what we could get,” Lanier said.

The Panthers put it away at the line. Williams and Allen combined to go 12-for-12 at the line in the final 91 seconds to preserve the lead. Georgia State made 22 of 24 for the game.

It was a satisfying finish for Lanier, who was able to hold the team together despite losing five games to COVID and enduring an 0-4 start in conference play.

“All that disruption affected our chemistry, our rotation, and we were one of the worst defensive teams in the country on top of our bad offense,” Lanier said. “We really figured it out defensively, and we felt like we could get back to our old selves offensively and put the two together. It happened the last few nights, as simple as that.”

Georgia State will have to wait until Sunday to learn its NCAA destination and first-round opponent.

“I’m just proud of our guys and grateful for the staff I have and the support from my administration,” Lanier said. “You know, when you’re having tough times and going through all that stuff during the season, this means so much more. Just a resilient group of young men and really proud it happened to them.”