Poor second half sends Georgia State to third straight loss

Kane Williams led Georgia State with 12 points against South Alabama.

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Kane Williams led Georgia State with 12 points against South Alabama.

The lack of continuity and the effects of COVID on the Georgia State basketball team were evident again on Thursday.

The inconsistency from lack of court time, both in practice and in games, showed in the 74-65 loss to South Alabama at the Mitchell Center in Mobile, Ala.

It was only the second game for Georgia State since Dec. 21 and showed the potential that exists, as well as the shortcomings that must be addressed before the Sun Belt Conference tournament. It was the first time several of the team’s key players had been able to play together all season.

Georgia State (6-7, 0-2 Sun Belt) has lost three straight games.

“We’ve got to put together 40 minutes and we’ll do that,” Georgia State coach Rob Lanier said. “I’m not worried about our record. I feel like our team is starting to come together and really starting to take shape. So I’m excited about the direction that we’re going in and the numbers will take care of themselves over the course of the season.”

Georgia State played well in the first half, shooting 40.6% from the field and limiting South Alabama to 37% and two 3-pointers. In the second half the Panthers shot only 35% from the floor and 20% on 3s and allowed South Alabama to shoot 59.3% and make six critical 3-pointers. The Panthers forced 19 turnovers, but that led to only 19 points.

“It was definitely a tale of two halves,” Lanier said. “That was the difference in the game, just remaining on edge and being able to put together 40 minutes. We put together 20, which is a step in the right direction for us.

“We played with a lot of vigor in the first half and we didn’t exhibit that same toughness in the second half, not only with our defense, but when our defense put us in a hole, our decisions compounded that as the game went on.”

The Panthers got 12 points from Kane Williams, 11 each from Justin Roberts and Corey Allen and 10 points from Eliel Nsoseme.

South Alabama (11-5, 1-2) was led by Charles Manning Jr., an LSU transfer who scored 20 points, and Javon Franklin with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Jay Jay Chandler, a Texas A&M transfer, had 14 points and seven rebounds and Norcross native Lance Thomas scored 12.

Georgia State scored the first seven points of the game and led 11-4 before South Alabama settled down and went on a 10-0 run to tie the game at 16-16.

An unusual set of circumstances at 6:44 helped Georgia State settle down. Ja’Heim Hudson and South Alabama’s Franklin got tangled up while contesting a rebound. After an official review, Franklin was assessed a foul, which caused South Alabama coach Richie Riley to draw a technical for his overly energetic reaction. Georgia State made three of four free throws and Nsoseme scored on a short jumper to give the Panthers a 22-20 lead. Georgia State finished the half with an 11-2 run and led 34-29 at halftime.

Georgia State led by as many as seven in the second half, but South Alabama went on an 8-0 run to go ahead 45-42. The Jags added a 10-3 run to lead 57-52 with 7:18 remaining and Georgia State never got closer than four points the rest of the game.

Georgia State had Saturday’s game at Troy cancelled and won’t play again until Thursday against Appalachian State at the GSU Sports Arena. That will give the team the additional practice time it has been lacking.

“Because we’ve missed so many practices, there is a blessing in that,” Lanier said. “Because not only have we missed practice time, we’ve missed practice time with this group as currently constructed. You haven’t seen this team. So the more practices we get the better.”