Georgia State avenges last year’s lost to play in conference championship

After the game concluded, Georgia State left the floor victorious following a 71-66 win over the Appalachian State Mountaineers Sunday night in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

Almost a year ago to date, the two teams competed for an NCAA tournament bid in the conference championship. App State defeated the Georgia State 70-63. Not only did Rob Lanier’s team avenge the loss, but they’re also one win away from securing a trip to go dancing.

Throughout the night, the team reminded the conference why they were projected by many to win it all. After failing to meet early expectations, the revival of the team came at the perfect time. Winners of eight straight, Georgia State showcased their metal, something Lanier has preached about during his three years with the program.

“That was something that we wanted to develop over the course of the year, a level of metal,” Lanier said after the game. “The last two nights were examples of us needing to have that quality and I thought we showed it tonight against a really good team.”

From the jump, the team brought out one of their best performances of the season. They controlled a 40-29 lead at halftime after Corey Allen drilled a buzzer-beating three-pointer. He finished the game with a season-high 29 points, six rebounds and eight assists. His brilliant offensive first half set the tone for a team that was moving the ball as good as they had done all season. 

Lanier’s favorite number from Allen’s performance: zero turnovers. 

“Corey’s wired to score, he’s a great scorer, he’s always been. At this point in his career, I want him to embrace being a more complete player,” Lanier said. “Tonight, the lid came off, and I don’t expect it to go back on. But if it doesn’t I still know he can contribute and he knows that. It’s important that at this time of the year, you have got to find ways to win. It doesn’t always go the way you want it to go, but I just love the growth from him. It’s important.”

Georgia State led for the final 23:55 of the game.

Allen got help from his big men. Eliel Nsoseme and Jalen Thomas played exceptionally well on both sides of the floor. The two combined for 23 points and 13 rebounds while limiting the Mountaineers’ starting frontcourt to just eight points on eight total shots.

On Mar. 8, Georgia State can secure their first conference tournament championship in three years in the championship game. Lanier and his team know it’ll be a fight: the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns rebound the ball well. The game plan is simple.

“We have to try our best not to allow them to do what makes them good,” Lanier said. “There was a stretch where we defended them well, gave up three offensive rebounds and they scored. Tomorrow, we can’t allow them to do what they’re good at.”

Georgia State’s 2-0 against the Ragin’ Cajuns, which includes a 65-58 win on Feb. 25 at home.

The championship game tips off at 7:30 EST on ESPN+.