After a devastating loss to the in-state rival Georgia Southern Eagles last week, the Georgia State Panthers bounced back in a big way on Tuesday night against conference leader Little Rock, blowing the Trojans out by a score of 89-70.
Tuesday night also marked Senior Night for the 2020 graduates on the team. Fittingly, seniors Damon Wilson and Chris Clerkly both had strong performances. Wilson poured in 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting and Clerkly grabbed a team-high six rebounds.
“I was happy for Chris to give us a really solid contribution, and for Damon to play the way he’s capable of playing,” Coach Lanier said.
What the final score will not show is how close the game was in the first half. But, Georgia State led for all but three minutes of the game, eventually pulling away in the second half with a growing lead. The result was partially due to Little Rocks leading scorer Markquis Nowell exiting the game early after scoring ten points in just seven minutes of play.
The Panthers took advantage of Nowell’s absence. Lanier’s team brought tenacity on the defensive end the entire night. At one point during the second half, they forced back-to-back steals behind their exceptional full-court press. The effort was lead by Nelson Phillips, who posted two steals and two blocks in a starting role.
“I think Nelson just earned the opportunity [to start], he’s practiced well and his attitude and everything his energy his defense and we needed a spark defensively,” Lanier said after the game.
As a team, the Panthers forced Little Rock into 16 turnovers and 41% shooting on 46 shots for the game.
Offensively, Kane Williams recorded team-highs 21 points (4-of-9 shooting and 12-of-12 from the free-throw line) and seven assists. He also converted on a four-point play early in the first half.
“I thought he came into the game with a really clear mind and was focused on playing the game in such a way to give us our best opportunity to win, and I think the numbers reflect that,” Lanier said.
Overall the ball movement was contagious with the Panthers posting 20 assists on the game. Hot three-point shooting was also a catalyst for their success going 50% from behind the arc.
After a three-game losing streak, this game provided a much-needed confidence booster. Additionally, the win bumps up the Panthers in their seeding for the conference tournament. Georgia Southern dropped a big game to the Arkansas State by one on Tuesday evening.
The Panthers will look ahead to a Sun Belt Conference quarter-final on March 11 at home against an undetermined opponent.