Panthers win the Sun Belt Championship and punch their ticket for NCAA Tournament

After eleven straight wins, Georgia State can finally exhale: they’re going to the Big Dance.

The Panthers earned their automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament following an 80-71 victory over the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns in the Sun Belt Conference championship Monday night. 

The Ragin’ Cajuns scored the first points of the game in just 25 seconds and after a Georgia State jumper, regained the lead with 17:47 to go. Those were the only two times the Panthers trailed–for a total of 23 seconds.

Wire-to-wire, Georgia State played like a team on a mission, led once again by Corey Allen, who finished with a game-high 29 points and six assists. The Most Outstanding Performer of the tournament scored 12 of his 18 second-half points from the free-throw line and drilled five threes in 36 minutes. 

Eliel Nsoseme added 12 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks in his sixth double-double of the season. The senior now has five double-doubles in six career Sun Belt Conference Tournament games. Perhaps the best memory of the night came following the final horn when the cameras pointed at the Congo native emotional and embraced by his teammates on the court. 

Kane Williams finished with 10 points and three assists and Justin Roberts played an all-around game with nine points, seven rebounds and six assists.

The team played tremendous defense all game, limiting Louisiana to under 40% from the field in the second half.

It’s a culmination of the progress that a once 9-10 team has made over the last month of the season. After starting 6-9, there’s no denying that Rob Lanier’s team is one of the hottest in the nation. Entering Lanier’s first NCAA Tournament with the Georgia State in his third season, they’ve won ten straight games and 11 of their last 12. They last lost to the Troy Trojans in a 67-63 nail-biter at the GSU Sports Arena. That was over a month ago. Now, the Panthers are six days away from finding out where they’ll play in the program’s first NCAA Tournament game since March 22, 2019.

Outside of Nsoseme and Williams, no Georgia State player has competed in college sports’ most exhilarating spectacle. That all changes on Selection Sunday, when the Panthers find out who their Round of 64 opponent will be, with games happening on both Mar. 17 and Mar. 18.