Panthers Men’s basketball dominates Sun Belt with incredible chemistry

With players ranking among the nation’s best in a variety of categories, the Georgia State Men’s Basketball team’s success is no fluke. Photo Submitted by GSU Athletics

The 2020-21 season for the Georgia State men’s basketball team seemed unlikely over the summer.

With little practice and offseason preparation, the Panthers have maximized the time they’ve had together, displaying excellent chemistry on and off the court. Sitting at 8-4  the Panthers are clicking at the right time and making their presence felt as a dangerous team in the Sun Belt. Through the first ten games, the Panthers have showcased everything, from good to bad to even unique.

The Good

The Panthers have averaged 86.5 points per game through their first 10 contests, up from last year’s 82 points per game over their first 10. They also bring four players averaging over 12 points on the season to the table, along with another three players who scored seven.

More importantly than just the scoring, the play of Rob Lanier’s team translates to wins.

The Panthers outscore their opponents by an average of nine points per game on 48% shooting from the field. On the defensive end, they held their opponents to just 40% shooting per contest. The Panthers have the ninth scoring offense in the country this season behind five different players scoring 20 or more points in six of 10 games this season.

“With the starting lineup, we have five guys that can score the ball, especially with [Eliel Nesoseme] underneath, so what happens at times the defense has to collapse, and guys are able to pull the ball out to a guy like Corey or Justin in the corner,” associate athletic director Mike Holmes said.

The Bad

The Panthers haven’t had many low moments this season, but they have had areas to improve.

For one, they have been out-rebounded in five of the 10 games played this season. While Eliel Nsoseme and Jalen Thomas average a combined 16.2 rebounds a game, no other player is averaging over 4.5 a game.

In both losses, the opposing team out-rebounded the Panthers by an average of 18.5 boards.

The Panthers are also struggling from the line this season, shooting 61%, which ranks as the 15th lowest in the country. Free-throw shooting is vital down the stretch of close games, and with only two players shooting over 70% from the line (Justin Roberts and Evan Johnson), it can make or break Georgia State from a deep run in at the end of the season.

The Unique

The Panthers had to cram three months’ worth of practice in three weeks because of COVID-19. Then, an outbreak of the virus forced them to miss two conference games just last week.

Despite the shortened offseason and, the new-look team plays as if they have known each other for years. 

The chemistry on and off the court with this team is remarkable. Considering the small amount of time they had to prepare for the season, they have not missed a beat and are playing like they have something to prove.

Among those looking to prove something, second-year Panther Corey Allen is in the middle of one of the best offensive seasons in recent program history.

“He has come out and knocked down 32 three-pointers, which, in a normal 30-game year, would be on pace to break a school record,” Holmes said. “The beauty of having a deep team right now is that only one player is averaging over 29 minutes a game, and we have guys that can come off the bench and be productive.”

The Panthers have two players that rank in the top-25 of two separate categories in all NCAA Division 1 basketball this season.

Allen ranks top-25 in the country for his 54% clip from beyond the arc this season. Nsoseme ranks 17th in the nation for rebounds per game at an average of 10.6.

As a team, Georgia State forces the 35th-most turnovers in the nation. They have aggressive defenders that defend the passing lanes well and force opposing ball handlers into challenging situations with traps and switches.

The Panthers have been playing lights out this season. They’re not only outsourcing opponents. They’re forcing five more turnovers per game, averaging five more assists than their opponents and doing a better job protecting the rim, as they average two more than their opponents.

Currently, the Panthers sit as a projected 13th seed in the NCAA Tournament. They can do some severe damage if they play like the team that has come out firing on all cylinders.