Rob Lanier’s Panthers defeat Yellow Jackets 123-120 in instant classic

In a near-empty McCamish Pavilion, the new-look Georgia State Panthers opened up their 2020-21 season with a 123-120 win in quadruple overtime Wednesday night. 

No, that is not a typo: this was the first quadruple-overtime game in either program’s history and Georgia State’s first triple-overtime game in its 48-year history.

In a game lasting over three hours, Rob Lanier’s Panthers became fatigued. Three players logged over 40 minutes, the regulation length in a college basketball game. While wearing his mask, the second-year head coach united his team and mentored them as the chess match progressed into the morning.

“During the timeouts, obviously we’re talking about getting stops, that’s really critical, and rebounding the basketball we didn’t do a great job of,” Lanier said following the game. “But we also talked a lot during the game about loving the opportunity, just loving what was going on and enjoying every minute of it and continuing to be tough and stick together.”

The game started at 9 p.m. and did not end until 12:22 Thursday morning, “Happy Thanksgiving” echoing throughout the media areas. Some reporters stayed and finished their stories in the press box while others headed home to write from the comfort of their home.

Georgia State led for much of the game — 60% of it. The Panthers used a 17-0 run in the first half to pad a strong lead over Moses Wright (31 points, 21 rebounds), Jose Alvarado (29 points, 10 rebounds and six steals) and the Yellow Jackets in the first half. 

The Jackets shot poorly from the field, 36.7%, and were flat-out awful from three-point range, 21.2%. What kept them in the game? They capitalized on Georgia State’s school-record 37 team fouls and shot 59 free throws. Even then, they only converted 69% of them.

On the winning side, several Panthers opened their 2020-21 campaigns with big nights.

As a unit, Lanier’s guys shot an exceptional 48.4% from the field while connecting on 33.3% of their threes and an underwhelming 55% from the free-throw line. 

While more practices and work will improve this Panthers’ team following their first win over an ACC opponent in program history, there are plenty of things that looked good on night one.

Let’s talk about a few.

Possibly the most impressive Panthers’ performance came from Eliel Nsoseme. The Cincinnati transfer sat out last season while redshirting and gave the team a debut that was well worth the wait. The  Congo native scored 22 points on 10-13 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds (all offensive — yes, he is that strong) and blocked three shots before fouling out in 33 minutes. 

“He’s just one of the best kids you ever want to be around. He’s really a special person, and he’s obviously a heck of a player,” Lanier said. “He is a grown man in every sense of the word, in terms of his maturity, his level of responsibility, his work ethic and his humility and respect for people.” 

Lanier sees the 6-foot, 9-inch and 235-pound beast as more than just a basketball player. Nsoseme is an exemplary member of the university, and everything it has to offer. From Nsoseme’s “phenomenal heart and effort” to the “infectious energy” he has, Lanier knows the best is yet to come.

“He is just a phenomenal ambassador for Georgia State Panther basketball and for the University as a whole,” Lanier said. “He’s the type of man that we want to be emblematic of our program and you saw that tonight.”

Kane Williams, a 77% free-throw shooter last season, made just 3-10 free throws last night during regulation. He went 3-6 in overtime and admitted it was the worst night he ever had from the line. The senior captain scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his first career double-double in 48 minutes.

Justin Roberts led the Panthers in scoring, putting up a career-high 26 points to go along with nine rebounds and six assists. His game-changing block in the second overtime with his team up 86-85 and game-high five three-pointers reminded fans just how special he is on both ends of the floor. He recorded a career-high 44 minutes.

Freshman Collin Moore changed the game’s trajectory with his 12 points, including two clutch free throws to tie the game with 1.3 seconds left to play in regulation. His calm nature and toughness are two of the many things Lanier loves in his 6-foot, 5-inch guard. He played 24 minutes in his college basketball debut.

“Collin played the way he practices. He’s a tough dude, and there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to make those free throws,” Lanier said. “When he went to the line, I was as confident as ever that he was going to step to the line and knock those down.” 

Corey Allen scored 22 points on an efficient 9-16 shooting to go along with nine rebounds. The redshirt senior scored 11 points in 17 overtime minutes. Highlighting his performance was a pair of big threes where he looked up to the roof and let out a loud “boom” with the Panthers bench. There are not many better shot creators in the Sun Belt Conference than the Ypsilanti, MI native. His 50 minutes are the most any Georgia State player has logged in the program’s history.

Speaking of records, here are a few school ones that the Panthers broke last night.

It was the first time four or more players scored 20 or more points in a single game. 

Last night’s 123 points also broke the previous program record for most in a game. The 1988-89 team scored 122 in a 16-point win over Fort Valley State. 

The Panthers and Yellow Jackets combined score of 243 also broke the previous Georgia State record for most total points in a game (228), which came on that same November day against the Wildcats.

Wednesday’s game was not a result of poor officiating, lack of preparation or anything else other than hard work and unity from the Panthers. Understanding this, Lanier loves the group he has and is ready to take on the rest of the season with them.

“I didn’t feel like last year’s team ever was a ‘together’ group,” he said. “I thought we were competitive, [and] I thought we had a good group of talent. But I don’t think we were together, and I do believe this team has a chance to be together. We do have guys that are really playing for one another.”